The Potential That Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Can be a Disruptive Technology: Results From a National Survey

Nicotine Tob Res. 2016 Oct;18(10):1989-1997. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntw102. Epub 2016 May 3.


Introduction: This study evaluates the reasons for use and acceptance of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) among current and former cigarette smokers to assess if ENDS may become a satisfying alternative to cigarettes.

Methods: Data are from a national probability sample of 5717 US adults, surveyed June-November 2014. The survey contained questions on awareness, usage, and reasons for use of traditional and novel tobacco products. The analytic sample was current and former smokers who ever used ENDS (n = 729) and was divided into four mutually exclusive categories. Among the 585 current smokers, 337 were no longer using ENDS ("E-Cig Rejecters"), and 248 were continuing to use both ENDS and cigarettes ("E-Cig Dual Users"). Among 144 former cigarette smokers, 101 were non-recent users of ENDS ("Quit All Products"), and 43 were continuing to use ENDS exclusively ("Switchers").

Results: Former smokers (the "Switchers") report finding ENDS a satisfying alternative to regular cigarettes, with only 15.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.4-27.1) rating ENDS as less enjoyable than regular cigarettes. However, greater than fivefold more current smokers did not find them satisfying and stopped using them (77.3%; 95% CI 72.1-82.4 of "E-Cig Rejecters" rated ENDS as less enjoyable). Being less harmful was the most highly rated reason for continuing to use ENDS among "Switchers." Most (80.9%) "Switchers" reported that ENDS helped them quit cigarettes.

Conclusion: Since many current smokers who have tried ENDS reject them as a satisfying alternative to regular cigarettes, ENDS will not replace regular cigarettes unless they improve.

Implications: Since about one-half of recent former smokers are trying ENDS with about one-fourth continuing to use them, and many reporting that these products have helped them quit regular cigarettes, the potential impact of ENDS on population quit rates deserves continued surveillance. However, since most current smokers who have tried ENDS reject them as a satisfying alternative to regular cigarettes, the potential of ENDS becoming a disruptive technology replacing regular cigarettes remains uncertain. ENDS need to improve as a satisfying alternative or the attractiveness and appeal of the regular cigarette must be degraded to increase the potential of ENDS replacing regular cigarettes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / psychology*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Nicotine