Background: Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine via inhaled vapor. There is considerable controversy about the disease risk and toxicity of e-cigarettes and empirical evidence on short- and long-term health effects is minimal. Limited data on e-cigarette use and correlates exist, and to our knowledge, no prevalence rates among U.S. college students have been reported. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of e-cigarette use and identify correlates of use among a large, multi-institution, random sample of college students.
Methods: 4444 students from 8 colleges in North Carolina completed a Web-based survey in fall 2009.
Results: Ever use of e-cigarettes was reported by 4.9% of students, with 1.5% reporting past month use. Correlates of ever use included male gender, Hispanic or "Other race" (compared to non-Hispanic Whites), Greek affiliation, conventional cigarette smoking and e-cigarette harm perceptions. Although e-cigarette use was more common among conventional cigarette smokers, 12% of ever e-cigarette users had never smoked a conventional cigarette. Among current cigarette smokers, e-cigarette use was negatively associated with lack of knowledge about e-cigarette harm, but was not associated with intentions to quit.
Conclusions: Although e-cigarette use was more common among conventional cigarette smokers, it was not exclusive to them. E-cigarette use was not associated with intentions to quit smoking among a sub-sample of conventional cigarette smokers. Unlike older, more established cigarette smokers, e-cigarette use by college students does not appear to be motivated by the desire to quit cigarette smoking.
Keywords: Cigarettes; College students; Electronic cigarettes; Nicotine; Smoking; Tobacco; Young adults.
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