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ENDS on campus: Changes in policy and retail environments

Institution: Stanford University
Investigator(s): Lisa Henriksen, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2014 (Cycle 23) Grant #: 23RT-0017 Award: $527,296
Subject Area: Industry Influence/Policy
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract

The retail marketplace for e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is characterized by rapid growth, multiple product lines (e-cigar, e-hookah, e-juice) and flavors, as well as new retail settings (vape shops and lounges). The products and their marketing are unregulated, and increased marketing from tobacco companies with new e-cigarettes (Vuse and Mark Ten) are anticipated. Despite initial marketing efforts targeting middle-age white males, e-cigarette usage appears most prevalent among young adults, with over ten percent of the upcoming young adult cohort reporting ever use in 2011-2012. ENDS advertising encourages vaping wherever smoking is banned. Unfortunately, current surveillance systems are inadequate to address the growing diversity of stores that sell ENDS, and to document the retail availability, price, promotion, and placement of ENDS, especially in environments frequented by young adults.

In addition, too little is known about how the proliferation of retail marketing for ENDS is related to smoke-free air laws. The research plan exploits a timely opportunity to study how changes in policies affect ENDS retail marketing by exploiting a natural experiment unfolding in California. Although all University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses were charged with implementing a tobacco-free policy by January 1, 2014, only the 10 UC and two of the 23 CSU now prohibit smoking and vaping; the remaining CSU campuses maintain weaker policies but some are expected to implement more stringent policies than whatever system-wide policy may be adopted. Under these unique circumstances, this longitudinal study proposes to:

Aim 1: Estimate the number of ENDS retailers in California that are licensed and unlicensed and characterize their location with respect to neighborhood demographics.

Aim 2: Examine differences in the availability and marketing of ENDS near college campuses with strong policies that ban smoking and vaping compared to campuses where weaker policies limit smoking to restricted areas and permit vaping anywhere.

Aim 3: Translate relevant findings from the proposed study for use by policymakers and advocates who are concerned with regulating tobacco products and their use.

Unlicensed vape shops will be identified from purchased address lists and matched with the state licensing records to estimate the quantity and proportion of unlicensed ENDS retailers. Using these updated tobacco retailer lists, we will then employ multiple methods to collect data about ENDS marketing in campus environments. Specifically, we will conduct: (1) telephone verification of tobacco retailers to assess the availability of ENDS in a census of retailers within 1-mile of all 33 UC and CSU campuses; (2) in-store observations about the promotion, placement and price of e-cigarettes in a randomly selected subset of e-cigarette retailers (n=500); and (3) content analysis of advertising for ENDS products and retailers in a random sample of college newspapers from the campuses (n=900). Retail data will be collected in the fall of 2015 and 2016; newspapers (print and on-line versions) will be collected continuously. Cross-sectional analyses will compare the availability, promotion, and price of e-cigarettes and other ENDS as a function of campus policy and neighborhood demography. Longitudinal analyses will examine policy and neighborhood correlates of change in marketing over time and in comparison to campuses where smoke-free air policies were strengthened during the study period. We will consult with the California Youth Advocacy Network regarding multiple dissemination activities to maximize the impact of the proposed research.

Multiple features of this proposal are innovative: It will improve marketing surveillance by developing a method to identify retailers who are currently exempt from the state’s tobacco licensing requirement; it would be first to characterize marketing for ENDS in a statewide sample of ENDS retailers near college campuses, and it will characterize retail promotions that are designed to appeal to young-adult non-smokers or to circumvent local tobacco-free laws.