E-cigarette use in global digital youth culture. A qualitative study of the social practices and meaning of vaping among 15-20-year-olds in Denmark, Finland, and Norway

Janne Scheffels, Rikke Tokle, Anu Linnansaari, Sofie K B Rasmussen, Charlotta Pisinger

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The introduction of e-cigarettes on the tobacco market has brought new regulatory challenges, and particular concerns relate to e-cigarette uptake among young people. The aim of this study was to explore the use and social meaning of e-cigarettes among Nordic young people and to discuss this in the context of current legislation.

METHODS: Thirteen focus groups were conducted with 46 Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian young people (24 boys) with vaping experience aged 15-20 years (mean age 17 years).

RESULTS: Young people's vaping stood out as an inherently social practice that was commonly interlinked with experimental use patterns. Relative to smoking, vaping was seen as socially acceptable and less harmful to health. Product innovations like flavour additives and nicotine-free liquid options added to perceptions of low harm, and innovative device design features facilitated new and playful user practices. Finally, digital markets eased the young people's access to e-cigarettes, and the digital world also represented an arena for e-cigarette exposure and self-presentation. They commonly viewed vaping-related content in their social media feeds and also produced such content themselves.

CONCLUSION: Young people's vaping is a social practice interwoven in contemporary digital and global youth culture. Transnational regulations are needed to support individual countries in preventing e-cigarette use and exposure among young people.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103928
JournalThe International journal on drug policy
Volume111
Pages (from-to)103928
ISSN0955-3959
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

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