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Research Article Research Article

Who goes to vape shops?

Once a rare sight, “vape shops,” or e-cigarette and vaporizer retail shops, now number in the thousands across the country. Experts estimate there were 5,000 to 10,000 vape shops in the U.S. in 2014.

Who is going to these shops and fueling their growth? Learning about current vape shop visitors can help with understanding the potential impact of visiting a vape shop and their future e-cigarette and tobacco product use over time.

Truth Initiative® researchers asked a national sample of over 3,500 young adults if they had ever been to a vape shop. The results, published inTobacco Prevention and Cessation, show 11 percent of young adults had ever visited a vape shop. The study found vape shop visitors are on the younger side (more likely to be between 18 and 24 than 25 and 34), and tend to be a racial/ethnic minority and less financially secure compared to those who did not visit vape shops.

When looking at tobacco and other substance use, results indicate vape shop patrons are more likely to use cigarettes, e-cigarettes and marijuana compared to those who never visited a vape shop. E-cigarette and hookah use was most significant, as past 30-day e-cigarette users were 15 times more likely to have visited a vape shop, while hookah users were six times more likely to visit than non-users.

“Young adult vape shop visitors share common characteristics with tobacco, other drug and [e-cigarette] users, which likely reflects an underlying propensity to engage in risk behaviors,” said Shyanika W. Rose, a research investigator at the Schroeder Institute® for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies and lead author of the study. “Future studies will examine whether vape shop visitation increases if these venues become more prevalent and established in the U.S.”

Until 2016, there was no federal regulation of vape shops or their products. At that time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued rules which apply to these shops, including a minimum purchase age of 18 plus photographic age verification, elimination of free sampling and inclusion of health warnings on products as of May 2018. These regulations are currently under legal challenge.

It will be important to understand why young adults visit vape shops, what appeals to them and whether vape shops are playing a role in helping young combustible tobacco users switch to less harmful products or quit completely.

Key takeaways


11 percent of young adults had ever visited a vape shop


Racial/ethnic minorities and those of limited financial means were more likely to visit a vape shop


Hookah users were six times more likely to visit a vape shop than non-hookah users


Cigarette smokers were 1.6 times more likely to visit a vape shop than nonsmokers