Study reviews whether vape and tobacco specialty shops comply with North Dakota’s smoke free law

photo of Dr. Kelly Buettner-Schmidt

A study by researchers at North Dakota State University examined whether vape and tobacco specialty shops comply with North Dakota’s smoke free law. The study included 35 licensed and unlicensed retailers that primarily sell electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and e-liquids, with or without nicotine.

Published in the May issue of Public Health Nursing, the study titled “Compliance with North Dakota’s smoke‐free law among vape and tobacco specialty shops” showed that only two shops or 5.7 percent were fully compliant with the smoke-free law. Full compliance for indoor environments was 8.5 percent and was 42.8 percent for outdoor compliance.

The NDSU research team includes lead author Kelly Buettner-Schmidt, professor of nursing; Donald R. Miller, professor of pharmacy practice; Megan Orr, associate professor of statistics; Katelyn Rykal and Missy Berry, NDSU School of Nursing; and Kathleen Swanson, assistant professor of practice, NDSU School of Nursing.

Study results also showed that vaping occurred inside five shops or 14.3 percent of those observed. Outdoors, smoking occurred within required smoke-free areas in two shops, or 5.7 percent of those in the study. 

When it came to indoor and outdoor signage requirements, 11.4 percent of shops complied with indoor signage and 48.6 percent complied with outdoor signage requirements.

Study researchers assessed whether businesses complied with the state’s smoke-free law by observing if smoking or vaping was occurring in prohibited areas and whether required no-smoking signs were displayed. Data was gathered during February and March of 2019.

“When viewed overall, compliance remained low,” said study lead author Dr. Kelly Buettner-Schmidt. “However, much of the noncompliance was related to signage,” said Buettner-Schmidt.

Study authors noted that use of electronic nicotine delivery systems occurred indoors, where prohibited by law. In addition, smoking occurred outdoors, where prohibited by law.

Earlier studies have shown that in North Dakota, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth since 2014. Approximately 33 percent of high school students reported e-cigarette use in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

E‐cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) produce an aerosol that can contain particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, resulting in exposure to the smoker and serious health risks that can affect the smoker and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

“North Dakota has one of the strongest laws in the United States to protect citizens from secondhand smoke,” said Buettner-Schmidt. Voters approved an initiated measure in 2012 that prohibits electronic smoking device use in all places where smoking is not allowed. In addition, signage is required in areas where smoking is prohibited.

A previous 2015 study of only unlicensed vape shops found that only one shop out of 16 was fully compliant with the North Dakota law. In that study, indoor vaping was observed in 19 percent of vape shops, and no outdoor smoking or vaping was observed. For signage, 38 percent of the shops had the required outdoor signage, and 6 percent had the required indoor signage.

The latest study showed that indoor vaping decreased slightly from 2015 to 2019, from 19 percent to 14 percent, and outdoor smoking in the required smoke‐free area increased from 0 percent to 5.7 percent.

“Even though the state’s smoke‐free law has been in effect since 2012, vaping and smoking still occurred in required smoke‐free and vape‐free areas, according to our most recent study,” said Buettner-Schmidt.

Study authors say the results provide important information in gauging compliance with North Dakota law and help inform policy decisions regarding electronic nicotine delivery systems.

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