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Betwixt two worlds? Disruptive technology and negotiating identity change


  • Principal Investigator Professor Janet Hoek
  • Mei-Ling Blank
  • Associate Professor Lee Thompson
  • Dr Tamlin Conner
  • Dr Shelagh Ferguson


Are electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) a disruptive technology that could dramatically reduce smoking or could vaping instead undermine cessation? Despite agreement that ENDS pose fewer health risks than smoked tobacco, many people do not fully replace smoking with vaping. We will explore this apparent paradox by probing how smokers negotiate new identity positions and which practices they retain, create or relinquish as they begin vaping. We will also examine whether and how vapers transition to become vape-free, thus offering new insights into a previously unexplored question.

Our novel mixed-methods approach will elicit data using longitudinal qualitative interviews, videographic analyses, and ecological momentary assessments, and develop contrasting perspectives on why and when transition from smoking to vaping, and beyond, occurs. We will use emerging social practice concepts to propose an over-arching explanation of how smoking and vaping practices intersect and evolve in relation to other practices. The Government’s plans to liberalise ENDS regulation make New Zealand a unique setting in which to analyse perplexing and unresolved questions about ENDS uptake. The new perspective we propose developing will complement dominant biomedical addiction discourse and provide a richer understanding of how ENDs, a disputed and ambiguous innovation, could improve health and well-being.


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