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Article | Qualitative exploration of young adult RYO smokers’ practices



Although roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco often elicits negative connotations of a lower class product, uptake and use by young adult smokers has grown because RYO is more cost-effective than tailor-made (TM) cigarettes. We explored the practices and beliefs young adults develop to distance themselves from unattractive stereotypes of RYO smokers.


We conducted 20 in-depth interviews with New Zealand young adult RYO users aged between 18 and 30 years, and used thematic analysis to interpret the transcripts.


We identified three themes: establishing the superiority of RYO tobacco; creating and enacting usage rituals, and ritual disruption. Participants regarded RYO tobacco as more natural and better-tasting; they used it to control their tobacco use and facilitate interactions with others. Many described rolling rituals where they used specific artefacts and microbehaviours to construct cigarettes they saw as personal and artisanal. Several, though not all, disliked unattractively coloured papers as these disrupted the value their rituals created.


Young adults imbue RYO tobacco with positive attributes, many of which centre on rolling rituals or draw on widely held misperceptions of RYO tobacco as less harmful. Excise tax increases could counter perceptions of RYO as more cost-effective while mandating that dissuasively coloured paper could disrupt reduced-harm connotations. However, evidence that erroneous harm beliefs are widespread and entrenched may justify restricting or eliminating the key artefact—the product itself.


Hoek, J., Ferguson, S., & Gallopel-Morvan, K. (2016). Qualitative exploration of young adult RYO smokers’ practices. Tobacco Control, tobaccocontrol-2016.

For the full article view Tobacco Control

For the associated blog, view Public Health Expert

For the media release view here

For more information, please contact:
Janet Hoek
University of Otago

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