The purpose of this study is to provide insight into the degree to which the introduction of electronic cigarettes (or, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) may potentially affect the social normative environment for tobacco use among young people. Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine through the vaporization of a liquid and because no combustion is involved they produce no side stream smoke. There is currently anecdotal evidence that these devices are becoming more commonly used in public spaces. There are significant marketing efforts underway directed toward young persons, especially on college campuses. In this study we will specifically ask if young people have a more positive perception toward the use of electronic cigarettes, as compared to tobacco, in otherwise smoking- prohibited public spaces. The study will also assess the degree to which young people are using electronic cigarettes, how aware they are of electronic cigarettes, how they may have learned about them, how electronic cigarettes are associated with or integrated into other tobacco use behaviors, the manner in which young people perceive electronic cigarettes as an innovation and the potential that electronic cigarettes have for uptake among young people. The study will be motivated by the Theory of Reasoned Action and Diffusion of Innovations. The public health implications are clear. Should ENDS become even marginally popular there would certainly be some advocates for allowing their use in areas where smoking is currently prohibited. State and municipal clean indoor air laws may be compromised, or at the very least complicated. Current smokers who are contemplating quitting will likely use these devices as a substitute, thwarting their quit efforts. Analysis of data from the Health Interview National Trends Study shows that smokers contemplating quitting are most interested in the devices. Providing public venues for the use of ENDS will not help these individuals. Finally, research has clearly shown that youth uptake of tobacco is affected by the observed prevalence of tobacco use in the environment. An additional mode of public tobacco use will not serve the interests of smoking prevention. Further, the availability of a "smokeless" device may have the potential to allow youth to more easily try nicotine without detection and could prove to be a magnet for experimentation.

Public Health Relevance

The purpose of this study is to provide unique insight into the manner in which young people view the introduction of electronic cigarettes, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) into public spaces. Significant advances have been made in the control of tobacco use in public through the propagation of clean indoor air laws. The advent of ENDS, which emit no side stream smoke, has presented a complication for such efforts. One significant concern surrounding the use of ENDS in public spaces involves the potential effect on social norms concerning tobacco use. An empirical examination of how young people view the potential introduction of ENDS into public spaces is information critically needed by tobacco control interests.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Community Influences on Health Behavior (CIHB)
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Lambert, Elizabeth
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Fort Collins
United States
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