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One of several ‘toys’ for smoking: young adult experiences with electronic cigarettes in New York City


Objective This qualitative research explores the use of electronic cigarettes and other similar ‘vapor’ delivery devices among young adults in New York City.

Methods We employed 17 focus groups followed by 12 semistructured interviews to understand the beliefs, opinions and practices related to the use of electronic cigarettes among young adult smokers (N=87).

Results Participants were mainly daily (52%) and non-daily (41%) smokers. While experimentation with electronic cigarette devices was frequently reported, participants related an overall lack of information about the devices and what they did know often reflected messages in e-cigarette marketing campaigns. Participants also used their own bodily sensations as a way to gauge potential risks and benefits of the products. Finally, young adults, steeped in a culture of personal technologies, perceived e-cigarettes as one more ‘toy’ among other technologies integrated into their everyday lives.

Discussion E-cigarettes were also frequently used with other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes. Our research indicates that public health campaigns may be needed to counter current industry marketing and inform the public that electronic cigarettes are currently unregulated, understudied and contain toxicants and carcinogens.

  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Priority/special populations
  • Non-cigarette tobacco products
  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices

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