By Simon Meechan
Only 28% of vapers aged between 18 and 25 used e-cigarettes to try and kick tobacco so health warnings should be tailored, the research says
E-cigarettes are not linked with a tobacco habit by young people, according to Durham University research.
Fiona Measham, a professor of criminology at Durham University, led a study which argues public health policy makers should consider that young people use e-cigarettes for different reasons than seasoned smokers.
It found only 28% of 14 to 25 year olds who used vapes do so to try and kick a tobacco habit. The majority were attracted to flavours or liked performing ‘tricks’ with the vapour.
Prof Measham said: “Our study suggests that vaping is establishing itself as a new phenomenon, independent of traditional smoking.
“Adults are bogged down by the similarities between smoking and vaping where as young people see them as different activities and do not associate vaping with the idea of a being a smoker or non-smoker.
“The young people we spoke with did not relate to the adult motivations ascribed to e-cigarettes, such as smoking cessation and nicotine consumption.”
Younger interest in e-cigarettes does not necessarily mean cigarette smoking is becoming more acceptable again – because attitudes towards e-cigs and tobacco are different.
Prof Measham wants health-bodies to understand this, so they can tailor health warnings to younger vapers.
Most of the young people surveyed said cigarettes are very harmful, but they were less clear on whether e-cigarettes were bad for you.
Prof Measham said: “In this age group, it appeared that vaping was less about an association with nicotine use and more to do with personal choice, enhanced peer group status and socialising with friends.
“So, whilst public health professionals, policy makers and academics are debating about whether e-cigarettes may help reduce tobacco smoking or entice young people into nicotine addiction, and potentially cigarette smoking, when we actually listen to young people the majority of them are not interested in either of these reasons for vaping.”
Gavin Turnbull, research associate on the project, said: “Whilst the majority of young e-cigarette users are currently smokers, we need to understand vaping as a new and different phenomenon to cigarettes.”
The six-month project’s research was done in the North West of England.
The study is published in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy.