The emerging norms of e-cigarette use among adolescents: A meta-ethnography of qualitative evidence

Hannah Smith*, Mark Lucherini, Amanda Amos, Sarah Hill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


While qualitative research has indicated that adolescents’ motivation for e-cigarette use is different than adults’, this body of literature has not yet been brought together and synthesised. We reviewed qualitative evidence on perceptions and uses of e-cigarettes in order to explore the emerging norms of vaping among adolescents. We searched five databases for qualitative research in October 2019 with no restrictions on date of publication or data collection. We identified fifteen papers from thirteen studies. Using a meta-ethnographic approach, we identified a spectrum of descriptive and injunctive norms of vaping across the themes of addiction; perceptions of comparative harm; parental perceptions and peer perceptions. We found addiction and perceptions of comparative harm to reflect descriptive norms, while we found clearer evidence explaining the use and non-use of e-cigarettes through parental and peer approval of vaping. However, these norms were fluid, diverse and sometimes contradictory. This review provides a resource for researchers, policymakers and practitioners to better understand the ways that emerging norms could be influenced through policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103227
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date27 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • e-cigarettes
  • qualitative research
  • smoking
  • social norms
  • systematic review
  • vaping


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