Electronic cigarette social norms among adolescents in New South Wales, Australia

Amelia Yazidjoglou*, Christina Watts, Grace Joshy, Emily Banks, Becky Freeman

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is common and increasing, especially among youth. In 2022/2023, 30% of 12-to 17-year-olds reported ever using e-cigarettes in Australia—a >50% increase from 2017 (14%). Several adverse e-cigarette health effects have been identified and most effects remain unknown. Social norms, rules that govern social behaviours, are associated with current and future adolescent e-cigarette use. Understanding social norms in Australian adolescents is critical to the development of targeted and effective e-cigarette prevention activities. This study aims to explore e-cigarette social norms among adolescents living in New South Wales, Australia. A total of 32 online single or paired semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted involving 46 participants aged 14–17 years, as part of the Generation Vape project. Reflexive thematic analysis was applied within a constructivist perceptive. Adolescents perceived e-cigarettes use as prolific among their peers, with use considered common, acceptable and normal. Fuelled by social exposure to e-cigarettes, ‘everyone’ was generally thought to be using them (descriptive norms). E-cigarette use was considered so entrenched that it was part of adolescent identity, with abstinence regarded as atypical. Use was driven by an internalised desire to fit it (injunctive norm), rather than being attributed to overt/external ‘peer-pressure’. Positive e-cigarette norms exist among Australian adolescents with norm formation strongly influenced by social exposure, including e-cigarette promotion. Prevention efforts should include limiting adolescent exposure to e-cigarette marketing to help redefine existing pro-e-cigarette social norms and protect health.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberdaae018
    JournalHealth Promotion International
    Volume39
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024

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