Knowledge of Alternative Tobacco Products in Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Published in: Tobacco Regulatory Science, Volume 5, Number 1, pages 65–75 (January 2019). doi: 10.18001/TRS.5.1.6

Posted on on April 30, 2021

by William G. Shadel, Joan S. Tucker, Michele Abbott

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In this study, we examined perceptions of factors that influence use and non-use of alternative tobacco products (ATPs) among unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.


We conducted focus groups with 30 homeless 18–24 year-olds (80% men, 50% Hispanic, 30% black, 17% white, 20% multi-racial/other) recruited from drop-in centers in Los Angeles. Discussion focused on several ATPs (hookah, electronic cigarettes/vaping devices, cigarillos/little cigars, smokeless tobacco, snus, natural cigarettes, clove cigarettes), soliciting participants' experiences using each ATP and motivations for using or not using each ATP.


Focus group transcripts were subjected to a rigorous coding procedure and 8 themes relating to the reasons that participants may or may not use ATPs emerged. Each ATP was associated with distinctive characteristics that motivated use and non-use. For example, hookah use was viewed positively with positive sensory and social features dominating the discussion, whereas electronic cigarettes were viewed largely negatively (ie, that they were expensive and harmful to health). Homelessness characterized participants' responses to the extent that cost was a factor in their choice of ATP.


These data provide important, first-look insights into factors that may influence the use and non-use of ATPs among unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.

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