Young people’s use of disposable vapes: A qualitative study

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Background and Aims: Youth use of disposable vapes has increased markedly in the UK in recent years, yet little is known about the motivations, experiences and perceptions of young people themselves. This study aimed to explore young people’s experiences and use of disposable vapes.
Methods: Qualitative study recruiting young people reporting regularly vaping disposables, collecting data via dyad guided, individual and group interviews. Data analysis was theoretically informed by the Social Ecological Model. Inductive and deductive coding approaches were used, with resolution of coded interpretations by consensus.
Results: Twenty-nine young people aged 16-20 participated in qualitative interviews. At the individual level, participants discussed how characteristics of disposable vapes were important to them – particularly price, accessibility, and the attractive designs, colours, names and flavours. Young people frequently engaged in both vaping and tobacco smoking, seeing the behaviours as interchangeable dependent on context, and having inaccurate relative harm perceptions of vaping compared with smoking. Experimentation was widespread and many used vapes as a way of managing stress and anxiety. Vaping was positioned as a social behaviour, common amongst peers. Parental influence on vaping behaviour was minimal, although vaping initiation could be influenced by family vaping norms. Culturally, vaping was a widespread normalised behaviour. Young people were aware of media reports and potential harms, but were less aware of smoking related harms as a consequence.
Conclusions: Disposable vapes appear to be attractive and accessible to young people in the UK. Vaping is normalised in this population, despite being seen as potentially damaging to health, and vaping and smoking are engaged in interchangeably. Underage sales of vapes are reportedly widespread. Strict regulation, such as banning products or increasing prices, may prompt UK youth to switch from vaping to smoking.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 May 2024

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