"It's not smoke. It's not tar. It's not 4000 chemicals. Case closed": Exploring attitudes, beliefs, and perceived social norms of e-cigarette use among adult users

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Feb 1:159:80-5. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.11.028. Epub 2015 Dec 9.


Background: Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use is rapidly increasing among adults in the U.S. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore consumer perceptions about e-cigarettes, including knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and perceived social norms.

Methods: A total of 14 focus groups (N=116) were conducted with current adult e-cigarette users in five U.S. cities from March through May, 2014. Focus groups were segmented by age (young adults aged 18-29 and older adults aged 30 and older) as well as by e-cigarette use status (exclusive e-cigarette users and non-exclusive e-cigarette users). Focus group discussions lasted approximately 60-min and were audio-recorded and transcribed; data were analyzed using a phenomenological approach.

Results: Participants expressed many positive attitudes towards e-cigarettes and simultaneously reported a lack of information and knowledge about the products. Focus group participants overwhelmingly felt as though the ingredients of e-cigarettes were likely less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Additionally, many described positive reactions from family and friends, especially when e-cigarettes were used in place of conventional cigarettes.

Conclusions: Findings from this qualitative study provide insight into consumer knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about e-cigarettes increasing our understanding of why and how they are being used. Such information will help provide insight into the potential public health impact of these emerging products.

Keywords: Electronic cigarettes; Qualitative research; Tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Norms*
  • United States
  • Young Adult