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Qualitative analysis of young adult ENDS users' expectations and experiences
  1. Janet Hoek1,
  2. Johannes Thrul2,
  3. Pamela Ling3
  1. 1Department of Marketing, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Janet Hoek; janet.hoek{at}


Objectives Despite extensive research into the determinants of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) uptake, few studies have examined the psychosocial benefits ENDS users seek and experience. Using a consumer ritual framework, we explored how ENDS users recreated or replaced smoking practices, and considered implications for smoking cessation.

Design In-depth interviews; data analysed using thematic analysis.

Setting Dunedin, New Zealand.

Participants 16 young adult ENDS users (age M=21.4, SD=1.9; 44% female).

Results Participants reported using different ENDS to achieve varying outcomes. Some used ‘cigalikes’ to recreate a physically and visually similar experience to smoking; they privileged device appearance over nicotine delivery. In contrast, others used personally crafted mods to develop new rituals that differentiated them from smokers and showcased their technical expertise. Irrespective of the device they used, several former smokers and dual users of cigarettes and ENDS experienced strong nostalgia for smoking attributes, particularly the elemental appeal of fire and the finiteness of a cigarette. Non-smoking participants used ENDS to maintain social connections with their peers.

Conclusions Participants used ENDS to construct rituals that recreated or replaced smoking attributes, and that varied in the emphasis given to device appearance, nicotine delivery, and social performance. Identifying how ENDS users create new rituals and the components they privilege within these could help promote full transition from smoking to ENDS and identify those at greatest risk of dual use or relapse to cigarette smoking.

  • Young adults
  • Electronic nicotine devices
  • In-depth interviews

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  • Contributors JH conceptualised and designed the project. With PL, she designed the research protocol, collected data and analysed the transcripts. JH led the MS development; JT and PL provided detailed feedback on early iterations of the MS. All authors have seen and approved the final version; JH is guarantor of the MS.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The project was reviewed and approved by a delegated authority from the University of Otago Human Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.