Motivations for use, identity and the vaper subculture: A qualitative study of the experiences of Western Australian vapers
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© The Author(s). 2020 Published in BMC Public Health. This article is published under the Open Access publishing model and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Please refer to the licence to obtain terms for any further reuse or distribution of this work.
Background Vaping is a relatively new practice, and therefore its symbolic meanings and social practices are yet to be fully understood, especially within Australia where the practice is strictly regulated. This study aimed to examine vapers motivations for use, reinforcing influences, and association with the vaper subculture.
Methods Working from a constructivist epistemology and a symbolic interaction framework, in-depth interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 37 current (89%) and former (11%) adult vapers, 70% male, mean age of 32.5. Data was analysed via thematic analysis.
Results Vapers largely started vaping to quit smoking and underwent common experiences during their initiation phase. Subsequently, vapers tended to adopt one of two dominant identities, that of the ‘cloud chaser’ or the ‘substitute’, which some users moved between during different stages of their vaping career. The social and symbolic meaning of e-cigarettes and vaping varied and involved concepts of harm reduction, addiction, pleasure, stigma and community, and for some, connection to the vaper subculture.
Conclusions Understanding the complexities of vaping, and the nuanced differences of ‘cloud chasers’ and ‘substitute’ vapers may have important implications for health communication, research and policy. E-cigarette users within this sample were not a homogeneous group and differed in their motivations for use, association with the vaper subculture and relationship with the vape community. These findings provide new insights into the socialisation process and subsequent identity adoption of vapers within the unique regulatory environment of Western Australia.
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