News coverage around vaping-related events may have furthered misconceptions regarding the relative harms of vapes. Such information may influence the decisions of individuals who smoke, around switching to vaping, potentially affecting the overall tobacco mortality burden. Thus, it is prudent to study how news events (e.g., 2019 vaping illness epidemic) are associated with vape sales in the United States, to possibly reduce the tobacco mortality burden.
We used weekly retail sales data for e-cigarettes (30 December 2018 - 28 December 2019) from the US retail scanner data compiled by the Nielsen Company. We used an interrupted time series design with segmented regression analysis to determine immediate and longer-term impacts of individual news events (e.g. Trump administration's planned ban on flavored vaping products) on vape sales, controlling for pre-existing trends.
Unexpectedly, we noted a statistically significant positive relationship between vape sales and the CDC announcing an investigation into vaping-related illnesses (Change: 6.59%, Estimate: 0.064; 95% CI: 0.036, 0.092; P<0.001). We also observed a similar positive association between vape sales and the CDC's announcement on the link between Vitamin E acetate and EVALI (Change: 2.93%, Estimate: 0.029; 95% CI: 0.003, 0.055; P<0.05). There was a steep decline in sales after these events.
News events are associated with US vape sales. Findings have implications for the management of risk perceptions around vaping to improve health outcomes of tobacco users. Information-based policy instruments can be applied to balance the effects of news events that may influence vape sales.