Study estimates over one-third of US high schoolers have ever used an e-cigarette and indicates that tobacco and vape shops are more concentrated in areas with a higher percentage of ethnic minorities or lower-income inhabitants.
Tobacco and vaping companies have positioned electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) to appeal to a young audience, producing e-cigarettes with sweet and fruity flavors. While there have been huge public health initiatives to attempt to discourage teens from using hazardous tobacco products, the same demographics are being advertised ENDS with potentially high – therefore addictive – nicotine content.
A team of researchers – presenting at the AACR Virtual Annual Meeting I (27–28 April 2020) – from various institutions across California and Florida (USA) aimed to analyze the use of tobacco products based on gender, age and ethnic groups.
Utilizing the US Census, 2013–2017 American Community Survey and 2019 California Tobacco Facts and Figures; they concluded that 13.5% of middle schoolers and 37.7% of high schoolers reported having used an e-cigarette.
The team also used geospatial mapping within Los Angeles Service Planning Area 3 (CA, USA), alongside Google and Yellow Page searches combined with social media scanning to determine the positioning of tobacco and vape shops.
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They concluded that, regardless of income, areas with a higher percentage of ethnic minorities also had a higher number of tobacco and vape shops. When income was taken into account, lower-income areas had a higher proportion of these shops than higher-income areas. Tobacco products also cost less in areas with lower median household income.
A suggested explanation for these findings indicates that as these areas have little resource and minimal political influence they have fewer restrictions on tobacco and nicotine-based product outlets.
It is hoped that these findings could be utilized in initiatives to prevent tobacco and vape shops from targeting youths, those who are socioeconomically challenged and minority groups. They suggest that stronger licensing requirements and federal/state-level regulations, in coordination with the US FDA, are necessary to prevent and reduce the use of tobacco and vaping products among the US population.