Adolescent Opinions

Posted 13th November 2018 by Dave Cross
In a week when a primary school-age child was depicted in a video reading a rabidly anti-vape propaganda script, research comes from California about teen attitudes towards vaping. Unsurprisingly, it advocates that campaigns build on negative images “to ensure that adolescents do not formulate ‘cool’ or otherwise desirable images of e-cigarette users”.

Frank Baeyens, who works at the Research unit for Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology, KU Leuven, summed the paper up: “Clinicians encouraged to support existing negative images - unattractive, trashy, immature, disgusting, and inconsiderate - of vaping peers about 17 yo. Anything goes, including blaming and shaming, to fight the vaping epidemic.”

McKelvey, Popova, Pepper, Brewer, and Halpern-Felsher produced a paper titled ‘Adolescents have unfavourable opinions of adolescents who use e-cigarettes’. The lead author is based in California, so the opening comment mentioning the Surgeon General’s report raising “serious concerns” comes as no surprise.

“We hypothesised that adolescents who are willing to try e-cigarettes or have used them in the past will hold more positive opinions of e-cigarette users than those who are unwilling to use or have never used them.”

The team recruited 578 U.S. adolescents, aged 14 to 20, to complete a questionnaire – and receive $15 each. The group was split into ever users (154) and never users (421). The majority of those expressing an opinion described vapers as “unattractive”, “trashy”, “immature”, “disgusting” and/or “inconsiderate”.

“The traits sexy and cool received ratings of ‘not at all’ attributable; and clean, smart, and healthy were ‘a little bit’ attributable.”

“Our findings support our hypothesis that participants who were willing to try e-cigarettes or who had already done so would have more positive prototypes and would hold more positive opinions and images of youth who use e-cigarettes.”

The team make the incredible statement that “evidence shows” vaping is targeted at teens. They go on to assert that this “pervasive marketing” includes “attractive models, appealing flavours, and claims of lower harm”.

“It is important to ensure that adolescents do not formulate ‘cool’ or otherwise desirable images of e-cigarette users,” they conclude, suggesting, “Media campaigns … could include highlighting negative health effects of e-cigarettes and deceptive e-cigarette marketing strategies employed by the tobacco industry.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker