The Swedish Adolescent E-cigarette Consumer: An exploratory study of motivators for testing and using electronic cigarettes among Swedish high school students

Susi Fidan Frauenfelder

Student thesis: Master thesis


Background and aim During the past few years, the electronic cigarette (e-cigarette, also known as electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) or personal vaporizer (PV)) has been increasing steeply in popularity worldwide. While the combustible cigarette is decreasing in popularity, e-cigarette use, or vaping is increasing, and adolescents in particular have embraced this new behavior. Given that the extant evidence on vaping is limited, and studies on adolescent vaping use are conducted less often, this exploratory study has been carried out to contribute to the understanding of adolescent ecigarette use in Sweden. Therefore, this thesis aims to explore attitudes among Swedish students in a high school towards e-cigarette use and to identify through primary research the underlying motivators of e-cigarette use. The basis of the study lies primarily in adolescent conformity to peers, risky behavior including the motive of novelty seeking and through that as a fashion statement. Hence, the underlying assumption is that teens are influenced by new trends and innovations, but adolescent behavior is also shaped by peer influence. Methods To gain a more factual perspective, this study uses the qualitative method of in-depth individual interviews based on a questionnaire. The respondents are 52 adolescents from one second-year class and two thirdyear classes of a total of 64 high school students from Vellinge Gymnasium, based in the Oresund region. The age differences of the respondents were modest, with the range of 16-19. The questionnaire survey was taken in class, which, depending on the respondents´ “vaping/have vaped status”, served as a filter resulting in 14 interviews. The gender distribution of the questionnaire respondents were 30 females and 24 males, whereas the gender distribution of the interviewees was 12 females and 2 males. Findings Questionnaire: The study showed, that of the 52 respondents, 63.3% females and 68.2% males reported having engaged in e-cigarette use on at least one occasion. The questionnaire showed that factors (in order of priority) such as “friends´ use” of e-cigarettes, “curiosity”, “healthier alternative to conventional cigarette smoking/smoking cessation”, “the fashionable aspect”, and “parental use of e-cigarettes” were influential factors of the respondents´ underlying reasons for engaging in e-cigarettes use. Interviews: Factors such as “harmlessness” and other perceived positive attributes of e-cigarettes, “curiosity” to try e-cigarettes, “safer alternative to conventional cigarettes”, “smoking cessation”, and “the fashionable aspect” were at play. At first, the most important motivators of the informants´ e-cigarette use was experimenting/curiosity, but the interviews demonstrated that contextual factors were the epitome of the adolescent´s decision process to engage in e-cigarette use. As a consequence, e-cigarette use appeared to increase steeply when socializing with peers than when in solitude. Moreover, all of the informants professed that the first mentioned considerations came secondary to the most important reason for engaging in e-cigarette use: ”peer influence”. In this connection, the informants admitted to have been strongly under peer influence and that they never would have engaged in e-cigarette use otherwise. After the decision of engaging in e-cigarette use, other factors played a role, e.g. the choice of an e-cigarette in a matching color (the fashionable aspect). Conclusion The study showed that Swedish adolescents are prone to peer influence to a high degree as evidenced by the informants that reported peers to have not only a significant, but decisive impact on their e-cigarette initiation and/or use. The steep rise of e-cigarette use, which was especially salient during social contexts within peer clusters as opposed to when the informant was alone, demonstrates a direct connection to peers, which is due to an unspoken influence on adolescents to join their friends in e-cigarette use. Irrespective of the motivator, as stated initially by the respondent, all motivators refer back to peer influence and is exerted in variable degrees: peer conformity, and/or peer pressure.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages100