A University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher predicts an e-cigarette marketing trend could lead more people to try vaping products, including teens and younger people.

Rebecca Williams, PhD, MHS, is a researcher at UNC Lineberger and the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
Rebecca Williams, PhD, MHS, is a researcher at UNC Lineberger and the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

In an industry watch update published in the journal Tobacco Control, Rebecca S. Williams, PhD, MHS, reported on the resurgence of cheap, disposable e-cigarettes that are easily found online.

Many of the products are modeled after Juul, the widely popular e-cigarette that uses pod style e-liquid containers, Williams said. Some have a nicotine concentration of up to 7 percent, which is higher than nicotine concentrations provided by Juul.

The products are priced as low as $4.60, which is about the same as a single refill of a Juul pod, which are typically sold in packs of four.

“These are going to draw users in – in particular youth users that might not have otherwise tried these products,” said Williams, who analyzed online marketing of disposable e-cigarettes vendors. “These products are so cheap; there’s a very low cost to entry.”

Holes in age-verification measures cause concern

Williams also raised concerns about that the age-verification practices of the sellers of the disposable products, calling them “questionable.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of e-cigarettes to people younger than 18 in 2016, and required that retailers verify purchaser ages with a photo ID for people under age 27 to buy a tobacco product.

Previous research by Williams and others has demonstrated how significant lapses in, or even a lack of, age-verification measures made it easy for minors to purchase e-cigarettes online.

“These disposable products may surge in popularity with minors, and prompt users of all ages to try and become addicted to vaping when they might not have tried it otherwise due to the cost of entry,” she wrote. “Moving forward, it is critical to carefully observe how these disposable products are marketed and to whom, and how rigorous sellers are about preventing youth access.”

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Citation: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2019-055379