It's Just Steam: A qualitative analysis of New Zealand ENDS users' perceptions of secondhand aerosol

Kerri Haggart, Lindsay Robertson, Mei Ling Blank, Lucy Popova, Janet Hoek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


Introduction Many smokers who begin using electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) report vaping in settings where they would not have smoked and believe secondhand aerosol (SHA) is simply steam. However, current understanding of how ENDS users differentiate between secondhand smoke and SHA, or how vaping norms develop, is limited. Methods We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 39 current ENDS users (dual users and former smokers, now exclusive ENDS users) from New Zealand to explore participants' perceptions of SHA. We probed how these perceptions arose and examined implications for vaping practices and policy. We managed the data using NVivo V.11 and used a thematic analysis approach to interpret the transcripts. Results Participants had limited understanding of SHA, its constituents or its possible effects on others. They drew on the absence of harm information, and their sensory experiences and perceptions of others' views of vaping, to support the conclusion that SHA posed few, if any, risks to bystanders. Yet despite this perception, some felt they should recognise others' rights to clean air and most would not vape around children to avoid setting an example. Conclusions In the absence of trusted information, participants used sensory heuristics to rationalise their ENDS practices. Policy-makers face the challenge of correcting misperceptions about SHA without deterring full transition from smoking to ENDS use. They could consider including vaping in current smoke-free area policies; this measure would signal that SHA is not harmless, and could protect clean-air settings and reduce potential normalisation of vaping among non-smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalTobacco Control
Issue number1
Early online date11 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (grant 16/149).

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • public policy
  • secondhand smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'It's Just Steam: A qualitative analysis of New Zealand ENDS users' perceptions of secondhand aerosol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this