The Influence of Social Settings on E-Cigarette and Alcohol Use

Student: Emily Fang
Table: BEHAV1102
Experimentation location: Reseach Institution, Home
Regulated Research (Form 1c): No
Project continuation (Form 7): No

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Additional Project Information

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Research Plan:

The question being addressed in this study is how social influences impact the initiation of vaping as compared to alcohol with regard to age. I am looking for a pattern in the reasons why people begin using these substances, both as youths and adults.


The objective of this project will be to determine a connection regarding social settings between age and the initiation of alcohol and e-cigarette use, two substances that are quickly becoming widespread and a global health concern. By analyzing data collected from a wide range of people who have used these substances, I planned to find patterns and pinpoint significant conclusions that can be utilized in public health policy making and substance use prevention initiatives. Our hypothesis is that the initiation of vaping has a larger influence from friends and peer groups as compared to alcohol.


Participants will be recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and paid for their participation. First, participants will be asked to identify whether or not they used each of the three substances mentioned above (e-cigarettes and alcohol). They will be asked, “Have you ever tried [product name] products (even one to two times)”. If they answer ‘yes’ to any, they received the same five questions for each. First, they will be asked “How frequently have you used [product name] products in the last year?” The answers ranged from (1) “Daily” to (5) “Have not used in the past year”. Next, participants will be asked “How old will be you when you first used [product name] products?” For this question they selected an answer in one of the following five categories: (1) Under 12, (2) 12-14, (3) 15-17, (4) 18-20, and (5) 21 or Older. In order to examine influencers, two questions will be taken from a different study pertaining to teen vaping (Groom et al, 2021). The first question will be “Where did you get your first [product name] product? Choose one.” Participants will be given seven choices: (1) a friend, (2) a family member or relative, (3) a neighbor, (4) someone else, but not a friend or relative, (5) I bought it at a store, (6) other, and (7) I don’t remember. They will be then asked “Where will be you when you first used [product name] products? Choose one.” They will be asked to choose one of the following answers: (1) hanging out with friends, (2) at parties, (3) by myself, (4) with my family, (5) school, (6) other, and (7) I don’t remember. The previous study utilized the questions to examine social impacts on e-cigarette use specifically, which translated well into this study for the purpose of examining social impacts on e-cigarette and alcohol use. Next, in order to evaluate the perspective of each participant on the effects of each substance, they will be asked "On a scale of 0-100 how positive/negative of an effect do you think [product name] products have had on your life?" Participants will be asked to answer with a number from 1-100, 1 being extremely negative and 100 being extremely positive. Finally, participants will be asked to respond to the following question with a percentage of their peers that they believed used each given substance: "What percentage of people in your age group do you believe use [product name] products regularly (at least once a month)?" After the questions, participants will be given demographic questions including education background, age, gender, and ethnicity at the end of the study.


This data will compiled in a spreadsheet and analyzed from multiple angles utilizing R language in RStudio. We used a series of t-tests, regression models, and chi-squared tests to analyize the data.

Questions and Answers

1. What was the major objective of your project and what was your plan to achieve it? 

The objective of this project was to determine a connection regarding social settings between age and the initiation of alcohol and e-cigarette use, two substances that are quickly becoming widespread and a global health concern. By analyzing data collected from a wide range of people who have used these substances, I planned to find patterns and pinpoint significant conclusions that can be utilized in public health policy making and substance use prevention initiatives.


       a. Was that goal the result of any specific situation, experience, or problem you encountered?  

Recently, I have found alcohol and e-cigarettes (vapes) to be the most common substances used by my peers at school and they have become increasingly prevalent around the world across people of all ages, especially with e-cigarette use rising rapidly in the past decade. Vaping issues at school and stories about alcohol and hangovers at parties have driven me to wonder if a pattern exists in the reasons why people begin using these substances, both as youths and adults. 


       b. Were you trying to solve a problem, answer a question, or test a hypothesis?

I was mainly trying to test a hypothesis of social settings being a main influence for the initiation of e-cigarette use and drinking.  



2. What were the major tasks you had to perform in order to complete your project?

I decided on a research topic, created a hypothesis, sent out a survey, and analyzed the data using R to draw conclusions.


       a. For teams, describe what each member worked on.




3. What is new or novel about your project?

This study aims to follow the study by Groom and colleagues (2021) which found socialization to be a prominent factor in the initiation of teen vaping. This present research aims to determine if similar themes persist in an adult population, and further specifically focus on the comparison between e-cigarettes and alcohol. To our knowledge, this is the first study to center around these two substances, particularly in relation to socialization. These results expand on the current knowledge about motives for the initiation of substance use and introduce new ideas about the impact of age on these motivations.


       a. Is there some aspect of your project's objective, or how you achieved it that you haven't done before?

I have never gone through the process of drawing conclusions based on data collected from a sample of people.


       b. Is your project's objective, or the way you implemented it, different from anything you have seen?

I have not yet read a paper that compares the reasons of initiation for alcohol and vaping especially with an emphasis on socialization and age. This is also the first study to investigate the initial use of alcohol and e-cigarettes in an adult population.


       c. If you believe your work to be unique in some way, what research have you done to confirm that it is?

After completing a thorough literature review of many papers in various databases, I find that my research topic is unique in the previously stated ways.



4. What was the most challenging part of completing your project?


      a. What problems did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?

Learning how to do some of the analysis in R was particularly challenging as it was my first time utilizing the tool. I both worked with a mentor and researched on my own in order to learn a lot about the coding language and what specific statistical tests were used for.


      b. What did you learn from overcoming these problems?

I learned to reach out to others when I need help and to push through conflicts with determination instead of shying away from them.



5. If you were going to do this project again, are there any things you would you do differently the next time?

Since I investigated a solely adult population, if I were to do the project again, I may include younger populations to draw conclusions based on a comparison between the two.



6. Did working on this project give you any ideas for other projects? 

After completing this project, I find that there are a few ways to branch off in exploring related topics. For instance, I would like to investigate the reasons for initiation of other substances such as cigarettes, which may result in interesting conclusions. Furthermore, a project looking at a comparison between adults and youth may produce valuable results.



7. How did COVID-19 affect the completion of your project?

This project was not started during the pandemic.