Perceptions and use of an ENDS device for a vulnerable population: incarcerated persons
Objectives: The public health community recognizes the need for tobacco harm reduction among vulnerable and marginalized groups, where smoking is increasingly concentrated. Some populations may need specialized approaches or products to effectively reduce harm. One example is smoking among people in custody, where studies find 50-83% in the U.S. are smokers, and use of contraband or adulterated tobacco is a widespread concern. ENDS devices for prison/jail use require special safety and tracking features. We assessed perceptions, use intentions, and actual use in the prison/jail setting of a specialty product (eCig 4 Inmate) among a U.S. national sample of formerly incarcerated persons.
Methods: We surveyed 1,587 persons who did and did not use such specialized ENDS devices during a recent incarceration.
Results: Of respondents who had an opportunity to purchase eCig 4 Inmate in a prison/jail commissary (where cigarettes were not legally sold), 95.1% of preincarceration daily smokers tried vaping the product; 99.0% of those who tried it went on to purchase more than one ENDS device. Among respondents not exposed to the eCig 4 Inmate ENDS when incarcerated, just 1.5% of daily smokers (and 2.3% of smokers who had never vaped), were unwilling to try vaping this ENDS should they be incarcerated in future. This compares to 55.3% of current tobacco non-users who were very unlikely to or definitely would not try it.
Implications: Specialized ENDS products have potential to attract incarcerated smokers to vaping, reducing both exposure to toxicants and use of contraband tobacco. Such products may also benefit other vulnerable populations with high smoking rates and special needs (e.g., persons with mental illness; persons with memory issues).