Knowledge and Beliefs About E-Cigarettes in Straight-to-Work Young Adults

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Young adults are a growing segment of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) users. Young adults who go straight to work (STW) from high school make up a large portion of the young adult population, yet research to date has focused on college-educated young adults. This study explored STW young adult beliefs and knowledge about e-cigarettes.


Semistructured individual interviews were used to elicit in-depth information from STW young adults ages 19–31 from a state in the southwest United States. Thirty interviews were conducted focusing on beliefs about e-cigarettes, current knowledge, and information-seeking practices. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using NVivo.


Nine themes were identified falling into three categories: (1) beliefs about e-cigarettes, (2) knowledge about e-cigarettes, and (3) personal rules about e-cigarettes. STW young adults held positive beliefs about the health and safety of e-cigarettes for themselves, others, and the environment. They reported their social networks and the Internet as reliable sources of information about e-cigarettes, but they reported parents as the best source for advice. Participants had rules about e-cigarettes that contradicted some of their beliefs such as using e-cigarettes around children indicating that their beliefs were not as strongly held as they initially reported.


Industry marketing and contradictory information may contribute to STW young adult knowledge and beliefs about e-cigarettes. Lack of credible public health information may also contribute to this issue. Ensuring that what is known about the benefits and harms of e-cigarettes is conveyed through multichannel communication and continued monitoring of marketing practices of the e-cigarette industry in light of the soon to be implemented regulations should be top priorities for public health.


Beliefs and knowledge of STW young adults have not been explored even though they are heavily targeted by the e-cigarette industry. This group holds strong positive beliefs about the health and safety of e-cigarettes, despite having little credible knowledge about them. This study indicates a need for efforts focused on educating STW young adults on the potential risks and benefits of e-cigarettes and the communication of credible information or at minimum the acknowledgment of the uncertainty regarding the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. It also indicates a need for continued monitoring and advocacy related to marketing practices of the e-cigarette industry.

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