Objective: To explore the understandings of and engagement with e-cigarettes, of young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, and how these may be impacting upon existing smoking identities.
Methods: Twenty-two small group and 11 individual qualitative interviews conducted in Central Scotland with 72 16-24 year olds between September 2015 and April 2016. Participants were mostly smokers and ex-smokers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Results: While most participants had tried e-cigarettes, they generally held ambivalent views about e-cigarettes and vaping. Two overarching themes were identified which helped understand this. Firstly, e-cigarettes were understood by the participants in relation to their existing smoking identities. Vaping was viewed as less controllable and more addictive than smoking, which did not fit with their self-identity as controlled smokers. Secondly, they felt that vaping could not replace the social and cultural importance that smoking had in their lives.
Conclusion: This study suggests that while young adults from disadvantaged areas are trying e-cigarettes for various reasons, vaping is rarely sustained. Through their own experiences of vaping and their observations of others vaping, the participants perceive the behaviour as endangering an existing acceptable and controlled smoking identity. Additionally, e-cigarettes were considered to be a jarring presence in existing social situations were smoking was valued. This study therefore provides insights into how young adults may be rationalising their continued smoking in the face of potentially less harmful alternatives.
Implications: As new and novel nicotine delivery devices, and due to their similarity to smoking, e-cigarettes have the potential to help smokers in their quit attempts. However, the findings from this study raise questions about whether e-cigarettes are regarded as having this potential by young adult smokers from disadvantaged socio-economic environments where smoking is more commonplace and acceptable.
- Journal Article