Teenagers’ understandings and awareness of e-cigarettes in the UK
This is a cross colloboration with the Gender and Health team.
Sales of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have grown exponentially in very recent years. At the same time, production, advertising, sales and use of e-cigarettes remain un-regulated in the UK.
Supporters highlight the potential of these Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) for tobacco harm reduction, while critics suggest e-cigarettes may re-normalise smoking and possibly act as a gateway to traditional cigarettes for young people instead. Despite the fact that e-cigarette use is now a worldwide phenomenon and teenagers have been highlighted as an ‘at risk’ group, very little qualitative research has been conducted with teenagers living in Britain. In this context, this study was launched in autumn 2014 in order to generate the first in-depth overview of teenagers’ understandings, awareness and experiences of e-cigarettes in the UK using focus groups with 14-17 year olds. The main research questions addressed by this project are: How aware are teenagers of debates on the advantages and disadvantages of e-cigarettes? What do teenagers perceive the advantages and disadvantages of e-cigarettes to be? Do teenagers perceive e-cigarettes as a gateway to cigarettes? Do teenagers perceive e-cigarettes as ‘cool’ or ‘naff’? Is there evidence of gender differences in their perceptions?
In addition to its academic relevance, this research is expected to have substantial societal impact and knowledge exchange value. In particular, its results will be directly relevant to the work of public health advocacy groups that operate in the area of tobacco harm reduction and policy-makers responsible for introducing e-cigarette regulations in the near future. In the longer term, it is hoped that this study will provide a useful basis on which to build further work on attitudes towards e-cigarettes and their representation in the mass media.