‘Maybe they should regulate them quite strictly until they know the true dangers’ : A focus group study exploring UK adolescents’ views on e-cigarette regulation
Background and aims: Regulation of electronic cigarettes has moved to the top of the addiction policy agenda, as demonstrated by the recent focus across the United Kingdom on introducing age-of-sale restrictions. However, the views of those affected by such regulation remain largely unexplored. This paper presents the first detailed qualitative exploration of adolescents’ perceptions of existing, and opinions about potential e-cigarette regulation. Methods: Sixteen focus groups, including a total of 83 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 years, were conducted in deprived, mixed and affluent urban areas in Scotland and England between November 2014 and February 2015. Transcripts were imported into Nivivo 10, coded thematically and analysed. Results Participants critically considered existing evidence and competing interests in regulatory debates and demonstrated sophisticated understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of regulation. They overwhelmingly supported strong e-cigarette regulation and endorsed restrictions on sales to minors, marketing and e-cigarette use in public places. Concern about potential health harms of e-cigarette use and marketing increasing the acceptability of vaping and smoking led these adolescents to support regulation. Conclusions: In focus group discussions, a sample of UK adolescents exposed to particular communications about e-cigarettes supported strict regulation of e-cigarettes, including banning sales to minors and use in indoor public areas.