E-cigarette policy and practice: what do vapers think?

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Ms. Hannah Farrimond

Lecturer in Medical Sociology

Dr Hannah Farrimond is a lecturer in medical sociology in the department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter. Her PhD (UCL) focused on smoking identities across lower and higher socio-economic status groups in the UK. She publishes in the field of health and new medical technologies as well as addiction, with a particular focus on the socio-cultural issues raised by legal addictions. Current projects include a) a Q-methodological (mixed method) study of vapers’ perceptions of vaping b) evaluation of a real-world experiment with South Devon police using breath boxes (breathalyzers) to prevent alcohol related violence in the night-time economy. She also has an ongoing interest in research ethics, having published ‘Doing Ethical Research’ (2012). Future research interests include developing larger-scale collaborative projects in relation to legal addictions, particularly on vaping regulation across Europe; alcohol-related harm and violence prevention; medication abuse amongst older people.

Work carried out: University of Exeter

Funding: University of Exeter research funding, no competing declarations of interest


E-cigarette policy and practice: what do vapers think? [2014 SSA Symposium]



This project aims to investigate the psychosocial and regulatory dimensions of electronic cigarette use (known as vaping) from the perspective of users/vapers. The rapid adoption of vaping across the world and dynamic nature of the e-cigarette industry has presented a dilemma for the public health community; dividing between those urging caution (due to safety/renormalization fears) with others pointing to the harm reduction potential. What do vapers themselves think?


Mixed method. Q-methodology (a hybrid method combining factor analysis with qualitative interpretation) is used to identity different ‘viewpoints’ within the vaping community. Open-ended questions also covered a range of policy choices; these have been analysed thematically.


Current e-cigarette users/vapers from the UK aged over 18 (n=70).


A Q-set of items for sorting was developed and piloted for this study from literature/online discussion. Policy and demographic questions were generated from existing surveys.


Initial findings indicate that there are divergent understandings of vaping, particularly the extent to which vapers identify with a medical model of vaping as treating nicotine addiction. In relation to policy, participants are broadly supportive of measures to restrict use to adults, but not of blanket restrictions on vaping in public places.  Resistance to perceived restriction is also identified e.g. the re-emergence of a discourse about ‘the right to vape’ and behaviours such as ‘stealth vaping’ (vaping when banned/restrictions are unclear).


Considering users’ perspectives is important; regulation that proceeds without doing this may be difficult to implement, especially given an online and international marketplace.


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