Vape Shop Employees: Public Health Advocates?Tob Prev Cessat. 2016; 2(Suppl)TP
E-cigarettes have increased in popularity and given rise to a new type of sales outlet-the vape shop. Expanding on work examining vape shop employee e-cigarette and tobacco attitudes and behaviors1, this study examined key messages that vape shop employees communicate to customers.
Using informal interviews, observations, and a cross-sectional survey, we examined vape shop employees' (n=16) perceptions and e-cigarette use. Data were collected in nine vape shops in Louisville, Kentucky. We used open coding to analyze the qualitative interviews, observation notes, and open-ended survey responses. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze survey data.
The findings revealed that nearly all employees were former smokers (93.8%), who now only use e-cigarettes. Over one-third of the employees (37.5%) began using e-cigarettes as a replacement for traditional cigarettes, and 93.8% reported better health (e.g., easier breathing, less coughing) since starting to use e-cigarettes. Although most employees believed e-cigarettes should be regulated, 56.3% thought regulations should be different from those governing traditional cigarettes. Analysis of qualitative data revealed that employees see themselves as health advocates who: 1) provide instructions on vaping and promote a vape community, 2) encourage cessation of traditional cigarettes, and 3) support some regulations.
The findings reveal that vape shop employees regard e-cigarettes as viable smoking cessation tools and relish their role in assisting others in taking what employees view as positive health actions. Future research addressing communication between vape shop employees and customers, especially related to smoking cessation and health, is needed.