Introduction: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are becoming increasingly popular, but little is known about their dependence potential. This study aimed to assess ratings of dependence on electronic cigarettes and retrospectively compare them with rated dependence on tobacco cigarettes among a large sample of ex-smokers who switched to e-cigs.
Methods: A total of 3,609 current users of e-cigs who were ex-cigarette smokers completed a 158-item online survey about their e-cig use, including 10 items designed to assess their previous dependence on cigarettes and 10 almost identical items, worded to assess their current dependence on e-cigs (range 0-20).
Results: Scores on the 10-item Penn State (PS) Cigarette Dependence Index were significantly higher than on the comparable PS Electronic Cigarette Dependence Index (14.5 vs. 8.1, p < .0001). In multivariate analysis, those who had used e-cigs longer had higher e-cig dependence scores, as did those using more advanced e-cigs that were larger than a cigarette and had a manual button. Those using zero nicotine liquid had significantly lower e-cig dependence scores than those using 1-12 mg/ml, who scored significantly lower than those using 13 or greater mg/ml nicotine liquid (p < .003).
Conclusions: Current e-cigarette users reported being less dependent on e-cigarettes than they retrospectively reported having been dependent on cigarettes prior to switching. E-cig dependence appears to vary by product characteristics and liquid nicotine concentration, and it may increase over time.
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