BACKGROUND: We sought to review qualitative evidence on how smokers in different socioeconomic groups engage with non-combustible nicotine products (NCNP), including electronic cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies, in order to provide insight into how these products might impact on smoking inequalities. METHODS: We searched ten electronic databases in February 2017 using terms relating to NCNP and socioeconomic status. We included qualitative studies that were published since 1980 and were available in English. We used guidelines adapted from the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme for appraising qualitative research. RESULTS: The review only identified studies exploring the attitudes of socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers towards NCNP for harm reduction or cessation purposes (i.e. we did not identify any relevant studies of more advantaged socioeconomic groups). Using a lines-of-argument meta-ethnographic approach, we identified a predominantly pessimistic attitude to NCNP for harm reduction or cessation of smoking due to: wider circumstances of socioeconomic disadvantage; lack of a perceived advantage of alternative products over smoking; and a perceived lack of information about relative harms of NCNP compared to smoking. Optimistic findings, although fewer, suggested the potential of NCNP being taken up among smokers experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our review highlights the importance of considering the social, cultural and economic circumstances that influence experiences of smoking and of alternative product use.
- tobacco control
- inequalities in health