Varieties in vaper identitys in a Norwegian context
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Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Department of Substance Use, Norway
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A239
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In this qualitative study, we analyze how users of e-cigarettes (vapers) articulate and express the meaning of vaping and their identity as vapers. Particular attention are drawn to how they understand their use in a Norwegian context, where use of snus is widespread, combustible cigarettes are denormalized, and perspectives on harm reduction within the tobacco control community are conflicting.

Semi-structured personal interviews with 32 vapers, strategically recruited (age, sex, to ensure coverage of different perspectives, and systematic observations of a Norwegian online vaping forum (< 12K members), are conducted to explore the complexity of identity-making processes for users of e-cigarettes.

Majority of interviewed vapers perceived their use of e-cigarettes as a less harmful substitute for smoking. Analyzing personal interviews and observations on a virtual vaping forum we observed that their identities as vapers varies, and can be classified into three main groups: (I) Users who vape to replace cigarette smoking. (II) Users who (also) have vaping as a hobby and participate in a vape oriented subculture. In addition, (III) recreational users who switch between tobacco products (snus+) and who value the novelty of e-cigarettes in some occasions, but also are ambivalent in regard to identifying themselves as vapers because of what they see as the social meaning of use of e-cigarettes (addiction, hobby, activists).

This study provides new insight into the varieties of vaper identities in a context were also snus have a substantial marked share. They portray their vaping in various ways, but hold a shared understanding of use of e-cigarettes as harm reduction. The results are relevant to policy makers in order to understand how to address users and potential new users of e-cigarettes.

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