Online E-Cigarette Vendors Follow Market Trends, Marketing Tactics Vary Widely

A previous study revealed that the number of Internet E-cigarette Vendors (IEVs) increased more than threefold between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the research team identified 980 IEVs, surging to 3,096 IEVs over the course of a year. The researchers also discovered roughly two-thirds of vendors were using ineffective age verification strategies – or none at all.

In this follow-up study, the team conducted additional analyses of 564 IEVs for insights into the types of products offered, promotional offerings, health claims, and pricing. They found that IEVs are following trends of the retail market in hardware, utilizing unverified health and/or smoking cessation claims, and offering a wide range of pricing, some of which is easily affordable for youth.


Key Findings

  • IEVs started selling larger tank and mod-based systems while the offerings for disposable and “ciga-like” e-cigarettes declined.
  • Flavored e-cigarettes were available from 85.9% of IEVs in 2014; fruit and candy were the most popular flavors.
  • While more than three-quarters of vendors made health claims regarding e-cigarettes in 2013 (76.5%), this number decreased to below half of vendors in 2014 (43.1%).
  • Many IEV sites made claims about whether e-cigarettes aid in smoking cessation with a few vendors provided conflicting claims on their site.
  • There was a wide range in pricing, with some e-cigarettes available to purchase for as little as $1.


With the rapidly growing online e-cigarette industry, regulating restricted products is increasingly important as well as difficult, due to jurisdictional challenges. Without proper enforcement of regulations, tobacco product vendors have been observed to make no effort to remain in compliance. Until new, adapted, and expanded regulations and enforcement address online e-cigarette sales, the growth and spread of these sales practices, such as making unrestricted marketing claims or using potentially unsafe chemical flavorings, will continue unabated.


Citation: Williams RS, Derrick J, Liebman AK, LaFleur, K. Content analysis of e-cigarette products, promotions, prices and claims on Internet tobacco vendor websites, 2013–2014. Tobacco Control Published Online First: 03 November 2017. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2017-053762

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