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Prevalence of disposable pod use and consumer preference for e-cigarette product characteristics among vape shop customers in Southern California: a cross-sectional study
  1. Artur Galimov1,
  2. Adam Leventhal1,2,
  3. Leah Meza1,
  4. Jennifer B. Unger1,
  5. Jimi Huh1,
  6. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati1,
  7. Steven Y Sussman1,3,4
  1. 1Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA
  2. 2Institute for Addiction Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  3. 3Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  4. 4School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Artur Galimov; galimov{at}


Objectives In February 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a guidance restricting the sales and distribution of cartridge-based e-cigarettes with flavours other than tobacco and menthol. Disposable devices were exempt from this guidance. This study examined the prevalence of disposable pod use and flavour preference compared with refillable pod and other e-cigarette users among vape shop customers.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting In July 2019–March 2020, trained data collectors visited 44 vape shops in California with permission to recruit customers from shop owners.

Participants Intercept interviews with 276 customers were conducted.

Outcomes and procedures Customers were grouped based on self-reported device type used most often (disposable pod, refillable pod and other e-cigarettes). Groups were compared on self-reported demographics, flavours preferred, daily e-cigarette use, preferred nicotine concentration levels and cigarette use.

Results Of the 276 customers surveyed, 11.2% used disposable pods in the past 30 days. Among disposable pod users, fruit/candy (80.7%), mint (77.4%) and menthol (67.7%) were common preferred flavours, while tobacco flavours were less commonly preferred (19.4%). When compared with refillable pod and other non-pod e-cigarette device users, disposable pod users were younger, used higher nicotine concentration levels, were more likely to prefer mint and menthol flavours and use e-cigarettes as their first product, while less likely to ever use cigarettes and use e-cigarettes daily.

Discussion Despite using higher nicotine levels and preferred menthol/mint flavours more often than users of other devices, disposable pod users reported lower prevalence of lifetime smoking and daily vaping and were younger. Given the current findings, regulations addressing non-tobacco flavours and nicotine concentration in disposable pod devices merit consideration in efforts to reduce vaping in younger adult never smokers.

  • public health
  • health policy
  • substance misuse

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available on reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available on reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author.

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  • Contributors All authors took an active role in the manuscript. SYS and LB-G designed the research. AG and LM conducted research under SYS supervision. LM coordinated the project. AG, AL and JH chose the main directions for data analysis and participated in the interpretation of results. AG performed the statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript. AL, LM, JU, JH, LB-G and SYS provided critical revision to the manuscript. AG, AL, LM, JU, JH, LB-G and SYS revised the manuscript before submission. All authors approved the final manuscript submitted.

  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by a California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program Award (TRDRP Grant #26IR-0016, Steve Sussman, PI) and a National Cancer Institute and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) Award (NCI/FDA Grant #U54CA180905, Mary Ann Pentz and Adam Leventhal, PIs).

  • Disclaimer RDRP, NCI, or the FDA had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.