Can e-cig use among young Finns be determined by a circle of friends metric?

The majority of Finnish youth report at least occasional use of e-cigarettes, according to a survey from a substance abuse organisation in the country.

The survey says 55% of 15- to 17-year-old respondents reported that friends of theirs used nicotine-containing e-cigarettes daily or occasionally, and 24% said their friends used nicotine-free ones daily or occasionally. Put together, 79% – a number tabloid scare-story headlines are made of – must have said their friends vaped at least occasionally.

Unsurprisingly, given the increase in use, the image of e-cigarettes changed to be more positive. The perception of their “trendiness” rose from 26% to 34% between 2022 and 2024 across the entirety of the survey, which took in just over 1,000 online responses from Finnish 15- to 29-year-old consumers.

The survey found 40% of respondents said snus or tobacco products were used among their circle of friends at least occasionally, if not daily. This is a slight decrease from previous years.


Missing information from a source with an abstemious background


The Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT), which conducted the survey, expressed concern about the increase in the use of vaping products and, separately, nicotine pouches when tobacco product use remained relatively unchanged.

But the EHYT comes from an abstemious background, which may be why it grouped snus together with other tobacco products simply because they contain tobacco – rather than sorting them by their relative risk. It would also partly explain the worry around the rise in nicotine pouch and vape use among younger people.

The number of respondents reporting daily/occasional use could indeed be concerning, but it is hard to tell just from the press release the EHYT put out. It did not separate out daily and occasional use. It also did not say what “use” entailed exactly, making understanding the precise level of use among circles of friends much more difficult.

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    And then there is the age-old question of whether nicotine use in itself is actually a bad thing – a question to which we surely know how an abstinence-based organisation would respond, but one that should still be asked of the wider audience.


    Enforcing existing laws rather than creating new and stricter measures


    Suffice to say that nicotine use in itself and on its own is not that hazardous to health, at least no more so than any other variety of addictive substances freely available on the market.

    The idea that no young people would ever take up a vice product again is also nonsensical. So is it the worst if younger users go straight to pouches rather than moving there from smoking? Though if youth vaping was anywhere near the percentages the study found (which it almost certainly is not), it would definitely be troubling.

    The EHYT suggests the majority of youth vapers are purchasing products through social media, which would in turn suggest illicit purchases rather than those made from legitimate vendors.

    If that is the case, would it not be better to increase enforcement of existing laws rather than take measures the EHYT recommends such as a complete ban on non-tobacco flavours and caps on nicotine content?

    – Freddie Dawson ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Hendrik Morkel

    Freddie Dawson

    Senior news editor
    Freddie studied at King’s College, London and City University and worked for publications including The Times, The Malay Mail, PathfinderBuzz and Solar Summary before joining the ECigIntelligence team. He has extensive experience in covering fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing and technological innovation.