By Lauren Sydoruk

Young Australian adults are more likely to use electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes for enjoyment rather than to quit smoking, new research led by Curtin University has found.

The research, published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia and funded by Healthway, concluded that young Australian males were most vulnerable to using e-cigarettes, with the most common reason for their use among smokers and non-smokers of traditional cigarettes being enjoyment.

Lead author Dr Michelle Jongenelis, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said the popularity of e-cigarettes had grown rapidly around the world.

“Multiple types of electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-hookahs, and e-pipes are now available in the community. At the population level, concerns have been raised that the widespread introduction of these products may encourage smoking-related behaviours,” Dr Jongenelis said.

“Our research assessed the demographic characteristics including gender and socio-economic status associated with e-cigarette use among smoking and non-smoking young adults to provide greater insights into those who are experimenting with and regularly using these devices.

“In an online survey of 1,116 Australians aged 18 to 25 years, we found that young males are particularly vulnerable to both trialling electronic nicotine delivery systems and becoming regular e-cigarette users.”

The results also showed that 67 per cent of the smokers sampled and 28 per cent of the non-smokers had previously used an electronic nicotine device, and 19 per cent of smokers and six per cent of non-smokers were current users of e-cigarettes. Just over 10 per cent of young adult e-cigarette users reported using the devices to quit smoking.

Dr Jongenelis said the growing range of electronic devices capable of delivering nicotine available on the market represented new challenges for the public health community.

“Our study suggests electronic nicotine delivery devices such as e-cigarettes are being trialled and used by young Australians at substantial levels and few users are actually using the devices to quit smoking,” Dr Jongenelis said.

“Further research is needed to investigate the reasons for the use of these products, as it will be critical for informing the development of appropriate interventions designed to target those most vulnerable to using these products.”

The research was co-authored by researchers from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, Cancer Council Western Australia, and The University of Western Australia.

The research paper titled, ‘Differences in use of electronic nicotine delivery systems by smoking status and demographic characteristics among Australian young adults,’ can be found online here.