A typology of vaping: Identifying differing beliefs, motivations for use, identity and political interest amongst e-cigarette users.Int J Drug Policy. 2017 10; 48:81-90.IJ
The aim of this study was to identify and differentiate socially shared accounts of e-cigarette use (vaping) using Q-methodology, combining factor analysis with qualitative comments.
Seventy statements on e-cigarettes, drawn from media, academic and online discussions, were sorted by participants along a continuum of agreement/disagreement, commenting on strongly ranked items. Each participant thus created their own 'account' of their vaping. A by-person correlation matrix of the sorts was conducted, then factor analysed, to identify similar accounts (p<0.01). Fifty-five UK vapers participated by post, 55% male, mean age of 46, 84% only vaping/16% vaping and smoking, 95% vaping daily.
Three accounts of e-cigarettes were identified. The first two were associated with having quit smoking; the third with ongoing tobacco smoking and vaping. In Factor One, 'Vaping as Pleasure', vaping was characterized as enjoyable, with long-term use envisaged and a medical model of vaping rejected. Factor One participants also held a strong vaping identity and were politically motivated to maintain the rights of adults to vape. In Factor Two, 'Vaping as Medical Treatment', vaping was understood as a pragmatic choice about how to medicate one's smoking addiction, with the aim being to treat and ultimately reduce nicotine dependence. In Factor Three, 'Ambivalent E-Cigarette Use', participants reported fewer benefits and harboured more negative beliefs about e-cigarettes; they also strongly rejected a vaper identity, having no interest in online forums or being labelled a 'vaper' themselves.
The UK e-cigarette users in this sample were not a homogeneous group; differing in their beliefs, motivations for use, identity and political interest. In particular they diverged on whether they accepted a medicalized account of vaping and identified as a vaper. Public health messages targeted to one group of e-cigarette users may not resonate with others.