Tricks and flavours attract young people to shisha and e-cigarettes

Published October 27, 2014 at 10:44

Young people across Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen are increasingly experimenting with novel tobacco and nicotine products, new research shows.

Health experts from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council have held a meeting with community groups and other partners to outline the results of a six-month study, which looked at how young people are using e-cigarettes, shisha and other tobacco products.

The meeting highlighted the results of research carried out by Durham University. The study included the views of over 300 young people aged 14 to 27 and found that:

• Most young people using e-cigarettes were also continuing to smoke traditional cigarettes at the same time.
• Only a quarter of current e-cigarette users were using them to try and quit and many thought e-cigarettes were unsuccessful as a stop-smoking aid.
• Significant numbers of young people use e-cigarettes and shisha pipes because they are attracted by the flavours and tricks they can perform with the smoke, such as blowing vapour or smoke rings.
• Young people class themselves as ‘non-smokers’ even when they are smoking shisha tobacco. The majority were not aware of the health risks of smoking shisha.

Councillor Brian Taylor, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Lead Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said:

“We have worked extremely hard to reduce the numbers of people smoking in Blackburn with Darwen and are very concerned that the rise in popularity of shisha and e-cigarettes may make smoking a normalised behaviour again. We know young people are attracted to Shisha bars as a place to socialise and e-cigarettes due to the fruit and sweet flavours and designs of the e-cigarettes themselves.

“We know shisha smoke is incredibly harmful though and that e-cigarettes are unlicensed and the long-term risks of using them are unknown at this point. The World Health Organisation has advised they should not be used by young people though and sales of them to under-18s will be against the law from 2016.

“This research is incredibly valuable to us and will play a part in helping to influence our on-going work on reducing smoking-related harms.”

County Councillor Azhar Ali, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said:

“For young people, smoking is no longer just about having a cigarette with their friends.

“This research shows that more and more of them use e-cigarettes, shisha and other innovative tobacco products making it more challenging for us to protect them from the harmful effects of smoking.

“It’s interesting that many people are attracted to e-cigarettes not to help them quit smoking, but because of the tricks they can perform with the vapour, as well as the flavours on offer. We’re concerned that many who use e-cigarettes also continue to smoke tobacco cigarettes.

“We are also worried about the continued popularity of shisha, including the fact that young people consider shisha bars a good place to socialise and meet people of the opposite sex.

“It’s clear that addressing the health effects of tobacco on young people is becoming even more complex.

“This research will be essential as we look at how we’re going to help young people be smoke-free here in Lancashire, and influence practice and policy relating to shisha, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in the future.”

This research was carried out by experts from Durham University’s School of Applied Social Sciences.

Fiona Measham, professor of criminology at Durham University, added:

“This study suggests that we need to think again about our notion of who is a ‘smoker’ and who is a ‘non-smoker’, given the diversity of products on the market and the fact that some young people are coming to smoking through products other than traditional cigarettes.”

The conclusions of the research will be will be shared more widely over the next few months.

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