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Adolescents' Health Perceptions of E-Cigarettes: A Systematic Review

      Context

      E-cigarette use is increasing among adolescents, particularly in high-income countries. This review examines the health perceptions of E-cigarettes among adolescents (aged 12–17 years) residing in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and their sources of E-cigarette information.

      Evidence acquisition

      Peer-reviewed literature published in January 2009–April 2019 in MEDLINE, Embase, and ProQuest were systematically reviewed using identified keywords. The search identified 654 references. Studies (n=99) that met the inclusion criteria were subjected to full-text screening. A total of 27 articles were subjected to quality appraisal using the Joanna Briggs Institute's critical appraisal checklists.

      Evidence synthesis

      A total of 7 qualitative and 18 quantitative studies were included in the review, and the study characteristics, results, and limitations were extracted. A total of 4 main themes emerged from the study findings: (1) perceived relative harm of E-cigarettes versus that of cigarettes, (2) perceived health effects of E-cigarettes, (3) perceived benefits and safety of E-cigarettes, and (4) sources of E-cigarette information and exposure. Most adolescents perceived E-cigarettes to be less harmful than cigarettes; however, often, their health perceptions of E-cigarettes were conflicting. Sources of exposure to E-cigarette information included friends, family, retail point of sale, TV and online advertising, national agencies, healthcare providers, and from direct experience.

      Conclusions

      Findings indicate that adolescents, particularly E-cigarette users, have more favorable perceptions of E-cigarettes than of cigarettes; however, these perceptions are conflicting. Advertising, marketing, and peer and family networks appear to influence adolescents’ perceptions. More research is required, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, to better understand adolescents’ health perceptions of E-cigarettes and where they source information from so that misperceptions can be addressed through appropriate channels with suitable messaging.
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