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UEL psychologists awarded research grant to examine teenage vaping

Education On The Edge

Parents and carers of secondary school-age children invited to help with study

A group of University of East London (UEL) psychologists have won a £45,000 research grant from Cancer Research UK’s Tobacco Advisory Group to investigate the attitudes of parents and carers towards their children’s use of e-cigarettes.

Recent years have seen an exponential rise in the use of these devices in adult populations, and there is evidence that use amongst young adults and children is also becoming more commonplace. But a major concern amongst many policy makers, health researchers and educators is that through their use smoking will become 're-normalised'.

This study aims to look at the opinions of parents and carers, surrounding the use of electronic vaporising devices (EVDs) by children aged between 11 and 18. 

Leading the research team is UEL Psychology Reader Dr John Turner, working with colleagues from UEL’s School of Psychology, Richard Greenhill and Dr Mark Finn. Dr Lynne Dawkins (formally at UEL and now at Southbank University) and Dr Caitlin Notley from the University of East Anglia are also part of the team.

So far there is little understanding of parent/carer views of EVD use amongst children, but anecdotal evidence suggests people in general perceive these devices to be relatively safe and very different from tobacco smoking. 

The inspiration for the study came to Dr Turner when a friend informed him that she had bought an EVD for her 12-year-old daughter.

“The child had asked for a 'shisha pen' similar to the ones 'all her friends' had,” reveals Dr Turner. “This product did not contain nicotine, but the parent was otherwise unaware of what it did contain.  But she felt the device was unlikely to be harmful as these products were 'clearly aimed at kids' often being brightly coloured, some with cartoon characters on, or with glitter or jewels etc.”

There will be three stages of the study. In the first phase, an online survey will be used to gather data from around 2,000 parents and carers of secondary school aged children (11 to 18 years of age).

The second stage will invite around 30 parents/carers to discuss their views in more detail through interviews. Finally, a very short survey will be conducted to gather some data from head teachers at secondary schools regarding local school policies on the control and use of EVDs at their institutions.

The survey should be completed by May 2017 and the findings will be published in international journals. 

Dr Turner said, “Our results may inform school, local and possibly national policy, and will generally feed into national and international debates and understandings of these now ubiquitous products. 

“Our data will certainly demonstrate what parents and carers do and don't know about these devices, and from this we can offer to help our participating institutions to develop simple educational leaflets and videos to enhance understanding and knowledge.”

There are several ways that students and staff at UEL and beyond can support this important study:

If you are a parent/carer of a child aged 11-18, please go to the link for the survey: www.uelpsychology.org/ecigs 

If you have friends or relatives with secondary school age kids, please pass on this link

If you have any contacts within schools that might be able to help the researchers recruit parents/carers, please contact the researchers either at childvapers@uel.ac.uk (for Dr  Turner or Mr Greenhill) or Dr Turner directly at j.j.d.turner@uel.ac.uk 


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