Teens vaping for flavours and tricks, not to quit cigarettes

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The teenage lure of vaping is mainly down to the flavours and the tricks you can do with the smoke, according to a study.

Only just over a quarter took up e-cigarettes to help them quit regular smoking.

And researchers believe that vaping is establishing itself as a something new, detached from smoking cigarettes.

The study argues that policy makers need to know why teens take up vaping so they can tailor their health messages better.

Lead author, Fiona Measham, a professor of criminology in the School of Applied Social Sciences, at Durham University 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 whereas 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.”

The study, published in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, explored trends in smoking-related attitudes and behaviours amongst young people aged 14-25.

Only 28 per cent who used e-cigarettes said they did so to help them stop smoking.

Instead, the majority of young people were attracted by the range of flavours and, in particular teenage boys, the ability to perform tricks with the vapour.

Professor Measham added: “Although there are indications of growing interest in e-cigarettes among young people, this does not mean that smoking is becoming more accepted as it was in the past - a process known as renormalisation - because of the difference in attitudes between vaping and smoking tobacco.”

The study found that whilst most young people identified traditional cigarettes as being very harmful, the same was not true when it came to e-cigarettes.

Young people were less clear on whether e-cigarettes were harmful, and also highlighted positives to their use such as being less harmful than tobacco smoking and producing more pleasant smelling vapours.

Professor 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 commented: “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 action research project, which was funded by Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council, was undertaken in north-west England.

The aim was to understand whether e-cigarettes are contributing to an increased acceptability, or ‘renormalisation’ of smoking amongst young people, in order to inform local health service provision.

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