Electronic Cigarettes: Awareness, Recent Use, and Attitudes Within a Sample of Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Australian Smokers

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Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) awareness, trial of e-cigarettes in the past 12 months, source and perceptions of safety and effectiveness was assessed within a disadvantaged sample of adult Australian smokers receiving welfare aid.


A cross-sectional survey was administered to clients who smoke at two community service organizations in New South Wales, Australia from October 2013 to July 2014. E-cigarette awareness, trial in past 12 months, sources of e-cigarettes and perceptions of the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes to help people quit were assessed along with sociodemographic and smoking-related variables.


In total, 369 participants completed the survey (77% response rate). Awareness and trial of e-cigarettes were reported by 77% (n = 283) and 35% (n = 103) of the sample, respectively. E-cigarettes were most commonly obtained from friends/strangers followed by tobacco shops (tobacconists). Trying e-cigarettes in the past 12 months was significantly associated with positive perceptions of their safety (odds ratio [OR] = 1.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1, 3.1) and effectiveness (OR = 1.9, 95% CI = 1.1, 3.2). Motivation to quit tobacco smoking was also significantly positively associated with positive perceptions of e-cigarette safety (OR = 1.2, 95% CI = 1.1, 1.4) and effectiveness (OR = 1.2, 95% CI = 1.0, 1.3).


Rates of awareness and trial of e-cigarettes within a disadvantaged sample of Australian smokers are comparable to rates found within representative samples of the general Australian population. Previously trying e-cigarettes and higher levels of motivation to quit were associated with more positive perceptions of e-cigarette safety and effectiveness.


This study demonstrates that socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers are aware of and accessing e-cigarettes in a country with relatively high restrictions covering e-cigarette sale and use.

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