Adolescents and E-cigarettes in India: A Qualitative Study of Perceptions and Practices

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, Mumbai, India.

2 Salaam Bombay Foundation, Mumbai, India.


Purpose: Global Youth Tobacco Survey-4, India conducted in 2019 showed ‘ever use’ of e-cigarettes among adolescents to be 2.8%. However, there is dearth of qualitative data on adolescent use of e-cigarettes in the country. This study was conducted to explore and gain better understanding on adolescents’ perceptions and practices about e-cigarette use. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 24 adolescents who self-reported use of e-cigarettes. The participants were recruited from ten municipal schools of Mumbai, India that cater to students from lower socio-economic background. Participants were from 7th to 9th grades, and aged 11-16 years. Data from in-depth interviews were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Adolescents referred to ‘e-cigarette’ as ‘pen-hookah.’  E-cigarettes were perceived as relatively harmless compared to regular hookahs and conventional cigarettes. Initiation was influenced by a friend, peer, or sibling. A variety of flavors, the after-taste, the ability to perform playful tricks with smoke, and fun-time spent with friends were cited as reasons for continued use. Social media influenced both initiation and continuation. Most adolescents’ regular use was with a group of friends; the device was shared with or obtained from friends or siblings. Adolescents were unclear about the presence of nicotine in refill liquids and the harmful health effects. Conclusion: Increasing awareness among adolescents about the harms of e-cigarettes is urgently required through comprehensive tobacco-prevention programs. More research is needed to examine the role of flavors in increasing acceptability of e-cigarettes and how it affects perceived harmfulness of tobacco products.


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