E-Cigarette (CC BY-SA Izuan Izam)

E-Cigarette (CC BY-SA Izuan Izam)

There’s a lot of discussion today about e-cigarettes. Will they help current smokers quit smoking? Will they jeopardize public health efforts that aim to make cigarette smoking socially unacceptable, or could their popularity further denormalize cigarette smoking? Will they be a gateway into cigarette smoking for young people? If e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, does stigmatizing e-cigarettes threaten public health efforts?

Our current California Smoking Study, which focuses on cigarette smoking and the ways in which smoking stigma may have variable impacts on different communities, suggests that there is a need for additional research into the social and cultural meanings of e-cigarettes specifically, so that we can begin to understand their “promise or peril”.

E-cigarettes have come up in our focus group discussions for the California Smoking Study. We conducted 4 focus groups with Black women and men between the ages of 18-25.  So many interesting things! We’d like to share a few kernels below…

  • Consumption and identity

White kids… smoke with the Camels or the e-cigs, now that I think about it
Charlene (Nonsmoker, woman)

Well, a lot of my friends have them. Like, they order them from like Amazon or something. And then, it won’t even be like around the campus. It’ll be IN my music building. I’ll walk like through the hallway, and I’ll smell strawberry, vanilla, and cherry. And like two seconds, and I’ll be standing there, like, “We don’t have any air fresheners in here.” And then it’s like, one puff of smoke leaves the classroom. It’s like someone has an e-cigarette. They’re smoking a new flavor. Okay, and that’s what happened. And being that I’m like one of the only dark people in the music building, during the time I’m in the music building, I sort of just assume they are white.
Nonsmoker, woman

  • A few interesting things going on below: Cost-effectiveness of e-cigs as well as resistance through consumption

I’m gonna switch up my style today, right? I’m gonna go to the smoke shop in downtown Oakland, right? You know, there’s the e-cigarette. I’m gonna go me buy two of those, right? I’m gonna be rolling, right? Then I could save more money. ‘Cause, you know, a box of Newports cost $7.

Moderator: You said you’re gonna smoke in style?

Hell yeah…I can get on the BART, laugh at the police [mimics vaping].
Smoker, man

  • Quitting and e-cigarettes

[E-cigarettes] do help you quit…I like my oil pen because of the fact that even when I’m smoking, I get flavor. Like, I don’t get really too much worried about smoking a cigarette after. I really ditched my cigarettes…now I just smoke my pen.
Smoker, man

I feel like at one point in time, there was like a 1,001 commercials for a different thing that would help you stop smoking. It was like gum and a patch and a pill and a shot….All of them stop you from smoking. You’re just like, “Stop. What is all of this stuff?” And now it’s just like e-cigarettes. “It’s like smoking, but it’s not smoking, and other people will like it too.” It does smell sorta good; I’m not gonna lie. The vanilla one, I was like, “It smells like cookies!”
Nonsmoker, woman

  • Suspicion about tobacco cessation in general and e-cigarettes as harm reduction

Before, when it was like they were actually giving you meds to [stop smoking]… and I know for a lot of my friends, they hate taking medicines, ‘cause they feel like, I don’t know, the government’s trying to put something in their body to kill them… But now, it’s like e-cigarettes. “We’re not trying to get you to stop smoking. We’re just trying to get you…back into society with your smoking.” Now it smells pretty.
Nonsmoker, woman

Some things, among many, that we want to explore more! Stay tuned…

Tamar Antin
Follow

Tamar Antin

Director at Center for Critical Public Health
Tamar Antin is a Research Scientist at the Prevention Research Center and the Principal Investigator of the California Smoking Study.
Tamar Antin
Follow

Latest posts by Tamar Antin (see all)