7 Times More Vape Shops in Schools and Low-Income Communities than in Affluent Communities
According to a report by The Guardian on January 30th, Australian researchers have, for the first time, revealed through a survey that e-cigarette stores are predominantly concentrated around schools and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
A study led by researchers from the University of Notre Dame Australia has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. The study involved manually searching for retailers of e-cigarettes in Western Australia and identifying 194 specialty e-cigarette retailers. The researchers also analyzed the extent of their associations with 1144 government, independent, and Catholic schools.
A study has found that nearly 90% of e-cigarette stores are within walking distance of schools, with one-third of them located within 500 meters. Furthermore, 88% of these shops are situated within one kilometer of schools. Meanwhile, the research also revealed that in economically disadvantaged areas, the density of e-cigarette stores is nearly seven times higher than in affluent suburbs.
Although this survey only focused on stores that exclusively sell e-cigarettes, researchers mentioned that the total number of e-cigarette retailers in Western Australia may be underestimated, as convenience stores and independent supermarkets may also sell these products. Professor Lisa Wood, a public health researcher from Australia, highlighted the necessity to pay attention to the layout of e-cigarette stores as Western Australia does not have a publicly available registry of these stores.
Research has revealed that Perth currently has 159 e-cigarette specialty stores, a 120% increase from 2019. Earlier this year, the Australian government implemented an import ban on disposable pods. Despite the opening of over 600 e-cigarette shops in New South Wales in the first half of this year, the federal government of Australia has announced strict reforms to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes in convenience stores.
Professor Wood believes that the federal reform measures banning e-cigarette products are not moving quickly enough. "They (the e-cigarette shops) are still advertising and selling before the new round of reforms is passed," she says. She urges not only the government and public health community, but also parents to speak up and halt the promotion and sale of e-cigarettes.
The study conducted by tobacco control expert Professor Becky Freeman from the University of Sydney provides a valuable insight into the sales of e-cigarette products in Western Australia. According to Professor Freeman, this high-quality research deepens our understanding of the situation. She highlighted that the majority of e-cigarette products sold are illegal, and most states and territories in Australia do not grant licenses to e-cigarette retailers. As a result, the actual number of physical stores selling e-cigarettes remains unknown. However, Professor Freeman anticipates that the federal reforms set to ban e-cigarette products nationwide in 2024 will render e-cigarette shops a thing of the past.
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