Despite extensive research into the determinants of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) uptake, few studies have examined the psychosocial benefits ENDS users seek and experience. Using a consumer ritual framework, we explored how ENDS users recreated or replaced smoking practices, and considered implications for smoking cessation.
In-depth interviews; data analysed using thematic analysis.
Dunedin, New Zealand.
16 young adult ENDS users (age M=21.4, SD=1.9; 44% female).
Participants reported using different ENDS to achieve varying outcomes. Some used 'cigalikes' to recreate a physically and visually similar experience to smoking; they privileged device appearance over nicotine delivery. In contrast, others used personally crafted mods to develop new rituals that differentiated them from smokers and showcased their technical expertise. Irrespective of the device they used, several former smokers and dual users of cigarettes and ENDS experienced strong nostalgia for smoking attributes, particularly the elemental appeal of fire and the finiteness of a cigarette. Non-smoking participants used ENDS to maintain social connections with their peers.
Participants used ENDS to construct rituals that recreated or replaced smoking attributes, and that varied in the emphasis given to device appearance, nicotine delivery, and social performance. Identifying how ENDS users create new rituals and the components they privilege within these could help promote full transition from smoking to ENDS and identify those at greatest risk of dual use or relapse to cigarette smoking.