Curiosity and convenience are two main factors compelling smokers of regular cigarettes to try electronic ones, while the sensory experience and perception of reduced harm motivate them to continue using e-cigarettes, according to a study led by researchers from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
In the study, researchers observed 14 adult smokers as they talked about the first time they tried e-cigarettes and their reasons for continuing to use them in addition to combustible cigarettes. The participants included men and women, whites and African Americans, and heavy and light cigarette smokers.
The results are published in Health and Behavior Policy Review in the article “Electronic Cigarette Use among Current Smokers: A Pilot Qualitative Survey.” The study’s lead author is Dr. Ban Majeed, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) at the School of Public Health.
“E-cigarettes aroused curiosity among cigarette smokers. Study participants expressed their intrigue regarding e-cigarettes’ flavors and taste, technology and novel design, nicotine content and delivery, and satisfaction,” the study found.
Participants also reported trying e-cigarettes for the first time out of convenience, because they were unable to smoke regular cigarettes indoors or because weather conditions prohibited them from taking outdoor smoke breaks.
Among the top factors influencing smokers to continue using e-cigarettes were sensory experience and perception of reduced harm. Participants said they thought e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular ones because they are “less harsh on the throat” and don’t produce an aftertaste.
“This belief made e-cigarette use a ‘guilt-free pleasure,’” the study noted.
Knowing more about what influences smokers to try and continue using e-cigarettes could help policy-makers and public health officials better understand the potential health benefits and harms of dual use.
“Continuous monitoring of the social climate surrounding e-cigarette use and marketing will inform regulation, policy, enforcement, and health communication,” the researchers stated.
The study’s authors also include Georgia State tobacco researchers Dr. Shanta Dube, Dr. Kymberle Sterling, and Dr. Michael Eriksen, Dean of the School of Public Health, as well as graduate research assistant Joy Burns; and Dr. Cassandra Stanton, a senior epidemiologist with Behavioral Health Group, Westat.
TCORS, which was established at Georgia State in 2013, takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the human and economic factors that contribute to tobacco use. The Center seeks to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products to protect public health.