How Minors Obtain E-cigarettes in Countries with Sales Restrictions

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How Minors Obtain E-cigarettes in Countries with Sales Restrictions
Teenagers in countries with age restrictions or bans are finding ways to access e-cigarettes, leading to potential health risks.

A recent study published in the Journal of Public Health examines how minors acquire e-cigarettes in countries with minimum age restrictions or sales bans. While these measures aim to limit non-smokers' exposure to e-cigarettes, there is a growing trend of young people using them as a smoking cessation aid. The teenage market for e-cigarettes is evolving, with attractive, easily concealable, and addictive products leading to a gradual increase in usage frequency. It is widely agreed that non-smoking young people may face potential health and psychological issues, such as respiratory problems and addiction pressures. The use of e-cigarettes is also associated with later smoking habits.


In this study, researchers conducted data selection and compilation to examine how underage children acquire e-cigarettes in countries that have minimum age restrictions or bans on sales. Up until September 2022, they searched four databases and reviewed relevant English-language papers published since 2015, which reported the primary research outcomes on how underage children obtain e-cigarettes.


The study included a total of 17 research studies. The participants in the focus groups and interviews ranged in age from 29 to 61 years old. Among the sampled members, those who reported their gender were between the ages of 13 and 18. Data collection began in 2017. The majority of the studies focused on underage individuals who had used e-cigarettes either currently or within the past 30 days, with fewer studies including those who had previously used e-cigarettes. However, there is still limited knowledge about the dynamics of social sourcing, particularly in the case of proxy purchasing. 30% of participants had borrowed electronic devices from others in the past month, with one-fifth borrowing frequently during this period. Participants primarily borrowed from friends (81%) and siblings (10%).


Overall, the research findings indicate that understanding the dynamics of social provision pathways is particularly important in reducing adolescent smoking, as underage children commonly acquire e-cigarettes through social means. The survey shows that friends are the most common social source, while purchasing on behalf of others is an important component of social provision. Face-to-face transactions are more common than online purchases, with e-cigarette shops being the most common transaction location. Further research will help to comprehend the interactions and power dynamics within the social supply chain, and will aid in impeding the social supply chain, promoting stricter marketing restrictions, and evidence-based preventative measures for adolescents.


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