Parent Perceptions of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Restrictions of Use
Prevalence rates of cigarette smoking are decreasing among U.S. adults, fewer people start smoking each year, and rates of cessation are increasing. However, the rates of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) use are on the rise. ENDS are battery operated devices that involve heating a liquid to create an aerosol or vapor that is then inhaled by the user. They are often referred to as Electronic Cigarettes, e-Cigs, Vaporizers, Vapes, and other terms. These devices are commonly believed to be a relatively harmless and risk-free means of reducing smoking behavior and an aid to smoking cessation. Although still in its early stages, there is scientific evidence to support the fact that ENDS use is not harmless. Short-term health effects of ENDS use include lung irritation, inflammation of the lung, and cardiovascular effects of increased heart rate and blood pressure. These adverse health effects are not isolated to the ENDS user but may also occur in those passively exposed to toxic ENDS vapors, particularly children. Parents and caregivers are often the primary source of children’s exposure to environmental toxins from both ENDS vapors and traditional cigarettes in their home and vehicles. While prior studies have focused on parental adoption of smoke-free homes and vehicles to protect their child from tobacco smoke, no studies to date have examined whether parents use ENDS or vape in the presence of their child or take steps to protect their child from ENDS vapors in their normal environments. How these behaviors are related to parental perceptions about the risk associated with ENDS use, as well as other factors, has not been clearly been determined. The aim of this study was to address these gaps in the literature. A total of 47 adult participants who were current smokers or current ENDS users and parents/guardians of children less than 18 years of age were enrolled in the study. Of the participants enrolled, 47% of the sample was male (n=22), 51% was female (n=24), and one participant identified as transgender. The mean age of the participants was 41 years old with a range from 18-56. Participants who were current smokers represented 51.1% (n=24) of the sample, current ENDS users represented 55.3% (n=26) of the sample and 9 participants, 19% were dual users. Overall, parents reported low scores on a measure that assessed risk perceptions of ENDS products and ENDS users reported significantly lower perceptions of harm from use of these products than non-ENDS users, t(45)=3.58, p<.05. Examination of rates of bans of ENDS use showed that 21.3% of participants reported a complete ban in their home, 21.3% of participants reported a complete ban in their vehicle, and 19.1% of participants reported a complete ban on ENDS use in both home and vehicle. In contrast, a much higher rate of participants reported cigarette bans in the home, vehicle, and in both the home and vehicle at 63.8%, 57.4%, and 51.1% respectively. Parents who were more likely to implement ENDS bans were females, and those who reported greater perceptions of risks regarding ENDS products. These collective findings will be used to inform future interventions focused on reducing parental use of cigarettes and ENDS products and implementing smoking and vaping bans in their homes and vehicles to better protect their child’s health.