Driven by the escalating prevalence of vaping among young adults, a Griffith University researcher is delving into the motivations and struggles of young vapers, to co-design a vaping cessation program.

PhD candidate and sessional academic tutor Nicola Rahman has been conducting the two-part study to understand vaping behaviours, and quitting intentions and attempts.

Phase one involved a national online survey of more than 500 current and former vapers (18-24 years of age), asking participants about the devices they used, preferred flavours, frequency, reasons for starting and efforts to quit.

It uncovered a range of valuable insights into the dynamics of vaping among young adults, including curiosity and peer influence leading to them starting the habit, and how they have found themselves unintentionally dependent on the habit.

Phase two seeks to engage a similar cohort in co-design workshops, using insights gathered to develop a program that will help addicted vapers quit.

A nurse herself with an interest in drug and alcohol related health issues, Ms Rahman started her research in 2021, anticipating the problem vaping was about to become.

Nicola Rahman

Nicola Rahman

“New research has already shown young people are rapidly becoming addicted to vapes” she said.

“Vapes contain more than 200 chemicals including formaldehyde and arsenic, which are things you really don’t want to be breathing in.

“They also contain high levels of nicotine, so we’re seeing this whole new generation of people addicted to and dependent on nicotine.”

While vapes are often used to help smokers quit, the research has found young people do want to quit vaping and are seeking support to do so, however, there is limited evidence-based information on vaping cessation.

What’s more, young people who begin vaping are three times more likely to move on to smoke cigarettes, with one in five participants reporting dual smoking, presenting a new health issue from the combination.

“We’ve also looked at participants’ attempts to quit vaping, what strategies they’ve used and what was or wasn’t successful.” Ms Rahman said.

“Many said stress was the reason they continued to vape.

“There’s a lot of mental health issues and stress tied up in this age group with vaping, but with 60 per cent of respondents having tried to quit in the last year unsuccessfully, this tells us that A) quitting is very difficult, B) the nicotine in vapes is very addictive, and C) we need to develop effective support to help people quit.”

The study aligns with broader recent efforts to understand the health implications of vaping, including emerging research on its harmful effects on dental health as well as environmental concerns.

As the vaping epidemic continues to unfold, the findings are poised to make a significant impact in guiding policies, interventions and public awareness campaigns to address the complexities of vaping addiction among young adults.

Participants are still being sought for the co-design workshops.

Current and former vapers aged 18-24, as well as health professionals who work with young adult vapers are encouraged to participate in a two-hour online workshop, with a $50 gratuity offered for their time.

Please email [email protected] for more information.