Since their introduction in 2007, electronic cigarette (‘e-cigarette’) awareness and use has grown rapidly. Little is known about variation in e-cigarette availability across areas with different levels of tobacco taxes and smoke-free air policies. This paper looks at US retail availability of e-cigarettes and factors at the store, neighbourhood and policy levels associated with it.Methods
In-person store audit data collected in 2012 came from two national samples of tobacco retailers in the contiguous US. Study 1 collected data from a nationally representative sample of tobacco retailers (n=2165). Study 2 collected data from tobacco retailers located in school enrolment zones for nationally representative samples of 8th, 10th and 12th grade public school students (n=2526).Results
In 2012, e-cigarette retail availability was 34% in study 1 and 31% in study 2. Tobacco, pharmacy and gas/convenience stores were more likely to sell e-cigarettes than beer/wine/liquor stores. Retail availability of e-cigarettes was more likely in neighbourhoods with higher median household income (study 1), and lower percent of African–American (studies 1 and 2) and Hispanic residents (study 2). Price of traditional cigarettes was inversely related to e-cigarette availability. Stores in states with an American Lung Association Smoke-Free Air grade of F (study 1) or D (study 2) compared with A had increased likelihood of having e-cigarettes.Conclusions
Currently, e-cigarette availability appears more likely in areas with weak tax and smoke-free air policies. Given the substantial availability of e-cigarettes at tobacco retailers nationwide, states and localities should monitor the sales and marketing of e-cigarettes at point of sale (POS).