Changes in childhood experimentation with, and exposure to, tobacco and e-cigarettes and perceived smoking norms: a repeated cross-sectional study of 10-11 year olds’ in Wales

Hallingberg, B., Angel, L., Brown, R., Copeland, L., Gray, L. , Van Godwin, J. and Moore, G. (2021) Changes in childhood experimentation with, and exposure to, tobacco and e-cigarettes and perceived smoking norms: a repeated cross-sectional study of 10-11 year olds’ in Wales. BMC Public Health, 21, 1924. (doi: 10.1186/s12889-021-12004-z) (PMID:34688277) (PMCID:PMC8542319)

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Background: Today’s primary school children have grown up in a climate of strong smoking restrictions, decreasing tobacco use, and the emergence of e-cigarettes. Children’s exposure to tobacco declined substantially in years following the introduction of smoke-free legislation, with smoking uptake and perceived smoking norms declining. There is debate regarding whether emergence of e-cigarettes may interrupt trends in children’s smoking perceptions, or offer a means for adults to limit children’s exposure to tobacco. This study examines change in children’s tobacco and e-cigarettes experimentation (ever use), exposure to secondhand smoking and vaping, and perceived smoking norms. Methods: Data from four, repeat cross-sectional surveys of Year 6 primary school pupils (age 10–11 years) in Wales in 2007, 2008, 2014 and 2019 (n = 6741) were combined. E-cigarette use and perceptions were included in 2014 and 2019 surveys. Analyses used binary logistic regression analyses, adjusted for school-level clustering. Results: Child tobacco experimentation and most indicators of exposure to tobacco smoke indicated a graded decreasing trend over time from 2007 to 2019. Exposure to e-cigarettes increased from 2014 to 2019, as did pupil awareness of e-cigarettes (OR = 2.56, 95%CI = 2.12–3.10), and parental use (OR = 1.26, 95%CI = 1.00–1.57). A decrease in child e-cigarette experimentation was not significant (OR = 0.80, 95%CI = 0.57–1.13). Children’s normative perceptions for smoking by adults and children indicated a graded decrease over time (OR = 0.66, 95%CI = 0.54–0.80; OR = 0.69, 95%CI = 0.55–0.86; respectively from 2014 to 2019). However, fewer reported disapproval of people smoking around them in 2019 relative to 2014 (OR = 0.68, 95%CI = 0.53–0.88). Higher exposure to tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes in public places, cars and households were associated with favourable normative perceptions for tobacco smoking; however in models adjusted for exposure to both associations of e-cigarette exposure were attenuated. Conclusion: Children’s experimentation with and exposure to tobacco, and their perceptions of smoking as a normative behaviour, have continued to decline alongside growth in exposure to e-cigarettes. Although a large majority of pupils reported they minded people smoking around them, there was some evidence of diminishing disapproval of secondhand smoke since 2007. Further research is needed to understand whether use of e-cigarettes in cars and homes is displacing prior smoking or being introduced into environments where smoking had been eliminated.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), grant number C57590/A25754. This work was support by The Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), a UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. Joint funding (MR/KO232331/1) from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the Welsh Government and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UKCRC, is gratefully acknowledged. LG acknowledges support from the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00022/2) and the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Care Directorates (SPHSU17). The 2007, 2008 and 2014 CHETS Wales surveys with which newly collected data were pooled were funded by the Welsh Government. This research was funded in part by the Wellcome Trust.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gray, Dr Linsay
Authors: Hallingberg, B., Angel, L., Brown, R., Copeland, L., Gray, L., Van Godwin, J., and Moore, G.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMC Public Health
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1471-2458
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s). 2021
First Published:First published in BMC Public Health 21:1924
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
Inequalities in healthMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/2HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU17