“This is the first study of its kind that makes direct links between reasons for youth uptake and the marketing strategies of e-cigarette companies,” said Assistant Professor Laura Struik, who teaches in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing. “The public needs to know how the next generation is being targeted to take up and ultimately become addicted to these nicotine products.”
A recent study suggested that as was the case with cigarette smoking in the past, the main motivator behind teen vaping is the “cool” factor derived from using e-cigs.
Co-authored with Assistant Professor Sarah Dow-Fleisner, Struik’s paper examined why teens take up vaping and whether advertising capitalizes on those reasons. In line with other recent findings, the researchers said that there are a variety of reasons why teens take up vaping, including managing stress and anxiety, curiosity, taste, peer pressure and easy access.
Struik added that these reasons clearly override any perceived health risks. “Youth don’t make the decision to vape because they don’t understand the risks or don’t care about the risks,” she said. “Young people are taking up vaping for a variety of reasons and e-cigarette companies are leveraging those diverse reasons to recruit teens into using their products. And it’s working.”
The relational aspects of vaping
The researchers reviewed over 800 studies and viewed numerous e-cigarettes TV commercials. “The TV advertisements we reviewed were found to tap into almost all of the reasons youth cite for taking up e-cigarettes,” says Dow-Fleisner. “The most highly-cited reasons were most prominently presented in the ads including a focus on relational aspects of vaping and product-related benefits, such as a positive sensory experience.”
Struik pointed out that that vaping adverts do promote e-cigarettes as enhancers of one’s social life. “This is particularly concerning because teens are at a developmental stage when establishing a social identity is of utmost importance to them,” she says. “It has been found in previous research that forming an identity around other forms of tobacco use, like smoking, results in resistance to health promotion efforts. So, we may have a more challenging context to work with than originally thought when it comes to intervening.”
The “cool” factor
In line with this, a recent study from the University of Michigan, suggested that as was the case with cigarette smoking in the past, the main motivator behind teen vaping is the “cool” factor derived from using e-cigarettes.
“The message about the dangers of smoking tobacco was just getting through, and then vaping came along and we may now have a whole new generation addicted to nicotine,” said study author Tammy Chang. Published in in JAMA Pediatrics, the MyVoice study responses were gathered via a text-message survey aimed at teens and young adults aged between 14 and 24.
The researchers found that nearly two-thirds of the study participants said that the social aspects of vaping, or rather “looking cool”, is what drives them to use Juul and other electronic devices. Less than 5% of the participants mentioned the availability of fruity flavours as a motivator for them to start vaping.
Read Further: MedicalXpress