E-cigarette regulation and policy: UK vapers' perspectives

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Abstract

Background and Aims

The rapid increase in use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has created an international policy dilemma concerning how to use these products. This study assesses the types of beliefs that e-cigarette users in the United Kingdom may hold concerning regulation.

Design

Qualitative thematic analysis of written answers to open-ended questions.

Setting

United Kingdom, questionnaire conducted by post, 44% recruited from online forums and 56% non-online.

Participants

Fifty-five UK vapers, 55% male, mean age 46 years, 84% sole users of e-cigarettes, 95% vaping daily.

Measurements

Open-ended questions on regulatory and policy options.

Findings

‘Protecting youth’ was seen as a fundamental regulatory requirement which should be achieved through childproofing, age limits, no advertising aimed at children and health warnings about addictiveness of nicotine, but not the restriction of flavours. There was little support for regulating e-cigarettes as medicines or limiting the strength of nicotine liquids. In terms of public use, participants argued against a blanket ban on public vaping given perceptions of a lack of scientific evidence of harm. However, they supported the principle of autonomy, that individuals and organizations have the right to restrict vaping. Some participants suggested banning vaping in places such as schools, hospitals or around food, in line with current smoking norms. Vapers' regulatory positions were accompanied by political concerns about the use (and misuse) of scientific evidence.

Conclusions

With regard to regulation of e-cigarettes, issues that are salient to UK vapers may include the need for youth protection, regulation as medicines, strength of e-liquids, bans on public vaping and concerns about the misuse of scientific evidence.

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