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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Taking Sides in E‐cigarette Research


In the last ten years, an eclectic mix of electronic nicotine delivery products ('e-cigarettes') and practices have proliferated in the US with little restriction, producing a vast array of vaping mechanisms, flavors, and styles. At the same time, anti-tobacco movements have targeted e-cigarettes as a threat to public health and advocated for restricting e-cigarettes in much the same way as conventional cigarettes. While anti-vaping proponents associated with public health movements have typically regarded e-cigarettes as primarily harmful products that should be suppressed, vaping advocates regard e-cigarettes as harm reduction products that should be readily accessible to smokers. Distrust between these two warring "sides" animates the controversy over e-cigarettes. In our role as researchers conducting a qualitative study on e-cigarette use, we encountered suspicion and anger from members of an e-cigarette forum who felt that pro-vaping perspectives were often misrepresented by researchers. As a result, we dropped our initial plan to host a group discussion of questions directly related to our study on the forum. Nevertheless, the incident illuminated how vaping advocates have resisted dominant narratives regarding tobacco and nicotine use, destabilized nicotine product categories and challenged interpretations of nicotine use that dichotomize pleasure and health.

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