Background: E-cigarettes have generated controversy in the tobacco control field similar to that of Swedish snus, which came to the U.S. market six years earlier. Some argue that e-cigarettes have great potential to help smokers quit regular cigarettes while others contend they should be banned for lack of safety and efficacy data. This study examined population data from the U.S.
Methods: A U.S. population survey with a national probability sample (N=10,041) was conducted (February 24 to March 8, 2012, before any major paid advertisement of e-cigarettes appeared on television). Survey respondents were asked if they had heard about e-cigarettes, where they had heard about them, whether they had used e-cigarettes or snus, how often they used them, and why they used them. Responses were weighted to represent the entire U.S. population.
Findings: A high proportion, 75.4%, reported having heard about e-cigarettes. Television ranked as the number one source of information, followed by "in-person conversation" and "Internet." About 8.1% had tried e-cigarettes, and 1.4% were current users. These rates were twice those of snus (4.3% and 0.8%, respectively). Among current smokers, 32.2% had tried e-cigarettes, and 6.3% were current users. Over 80% of current e-cigarette users were non-daily users. Women were significantly more likely to have tried e-cigarettes than men. Those who had tried e-cigarettes were more likely than those who tried snus to report their products being safer than regular cigarettes (49.9% vs. 10.8%). Almost half (49.5%) of current smokers were susceptible to using e-cigarettes in the future.
Conclusions: That e-cigarettes have surpassed snus in adoption rate, even before any promotion by major tobacco companies, suggests that the former have tapped into smokers' intuitive preference for potentially harm-reducing products, probably due to the product design. E-cigarette use is likely to increase in the next few years.