Understanding Perceptions of E-cigarette Use in Shared Consumption Spaces: A Schema Congruity Perspective

Abstract

In the absence of state or federal laws governing the public use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), hospitality organizations are often forced to decide, on an individual basis, whether or not to allow the use of these products in the consumption environment. Unfortunately, because the behavioral effects of e-cigarette use on nonusers are poorly understood, such decisions are often based on the personal views of management and/or anecdotal evidence from customers rather than on theoretically based empirical evidence. The purpose of this research is to explore the e-cigarette phenomenon from the perspective of schema congruity in an effort to better understand how consumers react to the use of e-cigarettes in shared consumption spaces. To these ends, data were collected from 228 consumers in the United States. Results of both qualitative and quantitative analyses suggest that evaluations of e-cigarettes vary significantly based on the social distance from the referent user as well as on salient contextual norms. In addition, schema congruity was found to affect both attitudinal perceptions of e-cigarette use and perceptions of restaurant policy concerning e-cigarettes. The results suggest that, when it comes to e-cigarette policy, consideration must be given to both property-level characteristics (i.e., norm salience) and product-level perceptions (i.e., schema congruity).

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