Characteristics of users and usage of different types of electronic cigarettes: findings from an online survey

Addiction. 2016 Apr;111(4):724-33. doi: 10.1111/add.13240. Epub 2016 Jan 13.


Aims: Studying users of e-cigarettes is important to help determine whether these devices aid smoking cessation. Obtaining data in representative samples is difficult, but online surveys of users may begin to build a picture. Therefore, this study aimed, through a large online survey, to describe usage and characteristics of users of e-cigarettes.

Design: Cross-sectional internet survey between 2012 and 2014.

Setting and participants: A total of 2807 current e-cigarette users enrolled via e-cigarette and smoking cessation websites, who lived in France (n = 988), the United States (n = 579), Switzerland (n = 310), the United Kingdom (n = 143) and other countries (n = 787).

Measurements: Type of e-cigarette used: pre-filled cartridges (n = 71), unmodified refillable tanks (n = 758), modified refillable tanks (n = 392), patterns of use, perceived effects.

Findings: Pre-filled models were perceived to be less effective than unmodified refillable tanks for smoking cessation by former smokers ('definitely helped': 74% vs. 94%, P < 0.001) and by current smokers for smoking reduction ('definitely helped': 37% vs. 78%, P < 0.001). Users modified their e-cigarettes mainly to obtain a better taste ('very true' 60%, 55.5-64.5%). Modified tanks were perceived to make it easier to abstain from smoking than unmodified tanks 95% vs. 89%, P < 0.001); 34% of users of pre-filled cartridges, 60% of users of unmodified tanks and 83% of users of modified tanks were men (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Newer-generation e-cigarettes were perceived to be more satisfactory and more effective for refraining from smoking than older models. Women tended to use pre-filled, unmodified models, which were perceived by participants to be the least effective in terms of abstaining from smoking.

Keywords: E-cigarette; electronic cigarette; internet; nicotine; smoking; tobacco use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / instrumentation
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Switzerland
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Young Adult