Electronic cigarettes (EC), also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), or vaping devices, release nicotine by heating a liquid into a vapour for inhalation. There are an estimated 41 million EC users (vapers) (WHO, 2019), 3.6 million of whom are in the UK (ASH, 2019), with a 7.1% prevalence rate in adults. EC are regarded as less harmful than smoking (NAESM, 2018; RCP, 2016) and are a useful cessation device for adults (Hartmann-Boyce et al 2018; Hajek et al., 2019), alleviating cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms (Palmer and Brandon, 2018). However, there is uncertainty around their longer-term safety and about cessation of vaping (Gilpin et al, 2019; Hughes et al., 2019). The devices come in all shapes and sizes and a range of flavours.

There is a need to gain a better understanding of how they are used as a quit device in young adult smokers, the extent to which they are used by non-smokers, of what is appealing to young adults about EC and their knowledge and awareness of their contents.

Objectives of the Research:

1.To determine knowledge about and use of EC in young adults aged 18-25 years

2.To determine use the extend of dual use in young adults

3.To determine the prevalence of EC use in smokers and non-smokers

4.To establish issues around EC and smoking cessation

5.To determine what EC devices are being used

6.To gain a better understanding of purchasing behaviour in this age group

7.To establish what the main flavours of use are and why

Methods to be used:

This project will include a mixed methods approach to explore the objectives. The use of a survey to meet the objectives above and then focus groups or interviews to gain a more in depth understanding of issues related to the objectives that arise.

Skills required of applicant:

Ability to perform scientific literature searches; Good communication skills; Good report writing skills; Ability to work independently and as part of a team; Experience of databases and SPSS


ASH (2019). Use of e-cigarettes - Action on Smoking and Health available at:

Gilpin DF, McGown KA, Gallagher K, Bengoechea J, Dumigan A, Einarsson G, Elborn JS, Tunney MM. Electronic cigarette vapour increases virulence and inflammatory potential of respiratory pathogens. Respiratory Research. 2019 Dec 1;20(1):267.

Hartmann‐Boyce J, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Begh R, Stead LF, Hajek P. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016(9).

Hajek P, Phillips-Waller A, Przulj D, Pesola F, Myers Smith K, Bisal N, Li J, Parrott S, Sasieni P, Dawkins L, Ross L. A randomized trial of e-cigarettes versus nicotine-replacement therapy. New England Journal of Medicine. 2019 Feb 14;380(7):629-37. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1808779

Hughes, J. R., Peters, E. N., Callas, P. W., Peasley-Miklus, C., Oga, E., Etter, J. F., & Morley, N. (2019). Withdrawal Symptoms From E-Cigarette Abstinence Among Adult Never-Smokers: A Pilot Experimental Study. Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Palmer, A. M., & Brandon, T. H. (2018). How do electronic cigarettes affect cravings to smoke or vape? Parsing the influences of nicotine and expectancies using the balanced-placebo design. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86(5), 486–491.
WHO (2019). WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.


This is a self-funded MRes opportunity.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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