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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Marketing activities of vape shops across racial/ethnic communities.

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There has been a surge in the number of vape shops in the USA. Research on the marketing practices of e-cigarette manufacturers is scarce and even less known are the practices of vape shop retailers. Past research on tobacco marketing has shown differences in the amount and content of marketing material, based on a community's demographic profile. This study examined marketing strategies in vape shops and explored differences among vape shops located in communities that differ by ethnic composition. Data was gathered in 2014 from a pilot-study on vape shops (n=77) in Los Angeles, which documented the characteristics of shops through employee interviews and in-store observations. Data were collected from shops located in communities that were predominantly, African-American (n=20), Hispanic (n=17), Korean (n=18), or non-Hispanic White (n=22). Sixty-one percent of vape shops had advertisements (print ads and posters) for e-cigarettes and 84% offered discounts. Vape shops in Hispanic communities were more likely to have ethnic specific marketing material compared to shops in other communities. All the shops provided customers with free samples, however those in Korean and non-Hispanic White communities had a significantly higher prevalence of customer accessible free samples. Vape shop marketing practices differed by ethnic community. A large majority of shops provided free samples to their customers, a practice which is now banned by the FDA. It will be important to monitor how vape shops will adjust their marketing strategy because of this ban. Future research should expand on the findings presented here to provide regulators with further crucial information.

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