The goal of this exploratory, community-based participatory research (CBPR) study is to improve understanding of how and why youth (ages 14-24) in Oakland are adopting (or resisting) electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) products, how youth respond to availability of e-cigarettes in their communities, and how they perceive communications about e-cigarettes (e.g., advertising) and in turn communicate about the products to each other.
E-cigarette use among both teens and adults is rapidly increasing, and teen use of e-cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012. One reason for the rapid increase among youth may be the widespread marketing of e-cigarettes. E-cigarette companies use many marketing strategies that are no longer allowed for cigarettes because of their appeal to youth, such as characterizing flavors and event sponsorship. E-cigarettes represent a potential health hazard to youth because they contain the addictive drug nicotine, and because the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol that looks like smoke models smoking behavior, which could potentially encourage tobacco smoking. In fact, most adult and teen e-cigarette users continue to smoke cigarettes; 76% of teen e-cigarette users reported “dual use” of both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes. A better understanding of how youth perceive e-cigarettes and their marketing, and how youth communicate about and use the products is needed in order to inform interventions to address youth e-cigarette use.
The California Adolescent Health Collaborative (CAHC), a project of the Public Health Institute (PHI), in partnership with a youth-focused, community-based partner organization, Youth Radio (YR), and an academic partner, University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (UCSF/ CTCRE), are jointly leading a CBPR study engaging youth from YR to fill the critical gap in knowledge about individual and contextual factors that contribute to youth e-cigarette perceptions and use. This project will employ qualitative CBPR methods by involving youth journalists as research partners and supporting them to explore the e-cigarette topic from their perspective, embedded in the context of their own experiences and those of others in their community.
Youth and adult co-Investigators will build each other’s capacity to collaborate in all phases of the study through reciprocal trainings. These trainings will improve both inductive research skills and e-cigarette knowledge of youth working at YR to support their participation as co-Investigators in the scientific process, including defining research questions, selecting appropriate methods, data collection, data analysis and presentation of results. The study will be guided by a Steering Committee comprised of academic and community researchers who each contribute unique, relevant expertise. Qualitative data on how youth in Oakland use and communicate about e-cigarettes, and how their perceptions and use of e-cigarettes are influenced by marketing and promotion, will be collected through interviews and a modified photovoice process. Photovoice is a process to identify needs and assets in communities using images and narratives, modified in this case by expanding image collection tools to include video, photoshop, or other new media tools that young YR journalists are proficient in. We expect findings that will usefully inform policy and programs, such as how youth find out about e-cigarettes, terminology they use, product features, use patterns, the contexts in which e-cigarette use (or decision not to use) takes place, youth perceptions and interpretations of messages about e-cigarettes, such as interpretation of marketing claims, views of how e-cigarette availability affects their community, or views of policies related to e-cigarette sales or use. Findings will be communicated to community members, youth, stakeholders and the scientific community through community forums, new media/ social media, and academic papers.