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A Thematic Analysis of the Relationship Between Dual Usage and Smoker Identity


The study addresses the relationship between dual usage (traditional smoking and e-cigarettes) with smoker identities. Background studies indicate that smoking is perceived to have more harm to human health since it delivers nicotine by burning tobacco, necessitating the introduction of vaping. Relevant literature concerning identities indicates mixed responses concerning smoking and vaping identities. Dual usage is common as people weigh health implications and maintain smoking based on cultural and social importance. The thematic analysis draws on Braun and Clarke’s concepts and uses a qualitative study with a face-to-face interview. The study sample constituted 10 participants. The selected participants were fluent English speakers and dual users from different ethnic backgrounds willing to participate in the study. Transcripts from two participants were used for thematic analysis. The study pointed out social life and expectancies about vaping as significant themes. The findings depicted similar themes to the ones addressed in the existing literature.


Smoking and vaping have formed a significant part of the literature on how individuals take nicotine products. Smoking is perceived to have more harm to human health since it delivers nicotine by burning tobacco. On the other hand, studies have proposed e-cigarettes as new technologically advanced means of delivering nicotine, which has less harm. A study by Lucherini et al., (2017) provides controversial perceptions concerning expectancies of vaping, with a significant population stating that it is more addictive and fails to serve the purpose of replacing a more harmful way of delivering nicotine traditionally. Participants in the study identified themselves as smokers since vaping aping was less controllable and failed to meet the cultural and social importance of smoking in their lives. This study is similar to findings presented by Vandrevala et al., (2017) et al. concerning attitudes toward tobacco and comparative evaluations of traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The study recognized the adverse effects of smoking on health, pointing to effects such as shortness of breath (Notley et al., 2018). Some of the accounts depict that the increased use of e-cigarettes and dual usage respond to health implications linked to smoking (Harrell et al., 2019). Some studies indicate that people have shifted their identities from using cigarettes to vaping since the former is associated with uncontrollable use. Nevertheless, a significant body of studies deems vaping less rewarding and products with a less satisfactory experience. Experience is linked to stress relief and pleasure associated with traditional smoking. Other studies view smoking and vaping as similar behaviours, justifying that the addictive nature of e-cigarettes makes them equivalent to conventional cigarettes (Vandrevala et al., 2017). The different literature presents significant questions concerning perceptions concerning traditional smoking and vaping. The study’s research question seeks to identify the relationship between dual usage and identities.

Research question

What is the relationship between dual usage (smoking and vaping) and smoker identity?



The researchers recruited the participants from social media accounts and selected those within the age range of 18 and 40 years. The selected age range constitutes a significant number of people who use e-cigarettes and vaporize. The participants to be used for the study were supposed to meet three requirements, namely’ speaking fluent English, being willing to participate in a face-to-face interview and being a user of both e-cigarettes and cigarettes during the interviewing time. The participants constituted eight males and two females. Six of the participants were aged above 25 years. The whites constituted the majority, with four followed by mixed multiple ethnic groups (3). The sample also had one from a combination of black British, Caribbean and Africans, while other ethnic group classifications had two participants. Data was obtained concerning the number of tobacco cigarettes used in a day, duration of smoking and course of vaping.


The study presented questions in semi-structured interviews targeting the identity implications of the dual users. These items included uptake of aping and traditional smoking, the dual users’ impressions, where they found the ideas, plans concerning cessation and the impressions of how other people reacted to their smoking behaviours. It took 20 t 60 minutes to complete the interviews, which were recorded on audio and transcribed by the researcher. The analysis used two structured interviews selected from the participants’ transcripts.


The thematic analysis uses qualitative methods to explore and interpret patterned information across datasets. A Braun and Clarke thematic analysis entails six stages essential in analyzing patterned information. The six systematic stages include familiarization with the data, initial coding, searching for themes, reviewing the themes, defining and labelling themes and report writing (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The study used the thematic analysis developed by Braun and Clarke to analyze data from the selected transcripts. Coding involved extracting codes used to generate themes and review them.


The analysis of the two interviews presented two essential themes concerning the dual usage of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. One of the critical themes of usage and introduction to the two ways of using tobacco products is socializing. The frequency of use and individuals’ choices concerning smoking and vaping highly depend on the social environments in which the users interact. Under these themes, the selected subthemes include families and friends as a factor defining the frequency choices and identities of the users. Another theme from the interviews concerning the subject is vaping expectancies. Vaping has emerged as a new way of using nicotine with a perceived reduction in the harm caused by nicotine. The users in the interviews have unique mindsets tied to using the relatively new product based on personal reasons. Under this theme, the subthemes include health, individual attitudes and friends’ perceptions affecting one’s choice.

Socializing has appeared in the interviews as a contributing factor to the introduction and patterns of smoking and vaping. The interviewees talk about friends and other people who affect their decisions concerning tobacco use. This theme is critical to understanding the social factors affecting dual users’ choices. People in the settings affect individual decisions to use e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. Friends have been featured in the interviews as significant elements contributing to the dual use of cigarettes. The first interviewee asserts that they smoke more than vaping and identify themselves as smokers rather than vapers due to their feelings about their friends’ approval. The interviewee states that they consider vaping from home rather than smoking since they will “rip them to shreds”. This perception contributed to the first interviewee’s identity as a smoker, not a vaper. The second interview also maintains that friends played a critical role in introducing them to smoking. The interviewee further states that smoking formed a vital part of identifying with friends since they could drink and smoke together and have stories. As the interviewee states, smoking brought a “sense of connection with my friends”. This statement implies that smoking is part of the socializing aspects that the interviewee perceives as essential. The second interviewee also acknowledges the support of friends in helping them make decisions concerning tobacco products. Family and home settings also form part of the subthemes that build up socializing. In the two interviews, the family has positive and negative effects on smoking frequency and choice of usage. Judging from the first interviewee’s words, “I go out a lot less, so I vape at home a lot more now”, home is seemingly a contributing factor in choices. The interviewee claims that many vaping occurs at home because they do not smoke from home. Since nicotine causes addiction, the interviewee settles for vaping from home to meet the satisfaction. The second interviewee also acknowledges that they had learnt about smoking since their dad smoked. This early exposure made the interviewees think that it was a pretty thing to do.

The dual usage of vapers and traditional cigarettes is tied to the theme of expectancies about vaping. Vapers emerged as new technologies to reduce the perceived effects of nicotine intake. Health is arguably one of the elements linked to the dual use of tobacco products. One interview acknowledges health reasons as one of the factors to consider while settling for vapers. The second interviewee asserts that they consider their physical health as important even though they smoke. Participants state that their interactions with physicians are important since they perceive their health as important as their smoking and socializing life. Concerning vaper, the participants state that they think of it as “clean and … very healthy”. This statement implies that the dual users have expectancies concerning tobacco products through vaping. The user thinks of vaping as less toxic than smoking, opting for the option and trying it out after years of smoking. The user thinks that the dual use and increased use of the vapers is a positive decision for their health. In general, this choice relates to the expectancies of the new technology for the users who have a significant concern for their health. The response views vaping as an alternative to using nicotine products and maintaining social lives without causing much harm to the body. Even though there are new expectancies concerning vaping, the two participants still identify themselves as smokers. The first participant vaporizes more than smoking due to minimal social interactions at home. However, the participant chooses the smoker identity over being identified as a vaper. The second participant provides the same response, who claims that smoking is still an “inherent part of my life” since they smoke with friends more often. Moreover, both participants think that it is more fun smoking than vaping. Pleasure and extended smoking periods contribute to the participant’s identity as a smoker rather than vapers.


The findings in the research critically reflect the existing research perceptions concerning identities and experiences in the usage of cigarettes and vaping. The findings from the study indicate that smokers are aware of the health implications of smoking, hence opting for vaping. Like the existing research, smoking is linked to adverse health effects, making users embrace dual usage. However, both participants in the study identify themselves as smokers rather than vapours. They justify these identities using the pleasure that smoking provides over vaping. Part of the support for these identities is linked to the cultural and social roles individuals achieve when smoking relative to vaping. These identity issues conform to the current studies concerning dual usage. One participant views vaping as less satisfying, yet vapers more frequently than smoking at home. This pattern indicates that smoking and vaping potentially have equivalent addictive effects. Generally, the data was of significant quality, based on its reliability and relevance to the existing concepts.


Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research In Psychology3(2), 77-101.

Harrell, P., Brandon, T., England, K., Barnett, T., Brockenberry, L., Simmons, V., & Quinn, G. (2019). Vaping Expectancies: A Qualitative Study among Young Adult Nonusers, Smokers, Vapers, and Dual Users. Substance Abuse: Research And Treatment13, 117822181986621.

Lucherini, M., Rooke, C., & Amos, A. (2017). “They’re thinking, well it’s not as bad, I probably won’t get addicted to that. But it’s still got the nicotine in it, so…”: Maturity, Control, and Socializing: Negotiating Identities in Relation to Smoking and Vaping—A Qualitative Study of Young Adults in Scotland. Nicotine &Amp; Tobacco Research21(1), 81-87.

Notley, C., Ward, E., Dawkins, L., & Holland, R. (2018). The unique contribution of e-cigarettes for tobacco harm reduction in supporting smoking relapse prevention. Harm Reduction Journal15(1).

Vandrevala, T., Coyle, A., Walker, V., Cabrera Torres, J., Ordoña, I., & Rahman, P. (2017). ‘A good method of quitting smoking’ or ‘just an alternative to smoking’? Comparative evaluations of e-cigarette and traditional cigarette usage by dual users. Health Psychology Open4(1), 205510291668464.


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