Current and Former Smokers' Use of Electronic Cigarettes for Quitting Smoking: An Exploratory Study of Adolescents and Young Adults

Nicotine Tob Res. 2017 Nov 7;19(12):1531-1535. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntw248.


Background: This exploratory study examines the prevalence and predictors of current and former smokers' use of electronic (e-) cigarettes for smoking cessation among a sample of adolescent and young adult established smokers.

Methods: We conducted school-wide surveys in two middle (n = 1166) and four high schools (n = 3614) in fall 2013 and one public college (n = 625) in spring 2014. We analyzed data from 189 established smokers (reported smoking 100 cigarettes in their lifetime) who also reported ever-use of e-cigarettes (50.7% female, 89.4% White race, Mage 18.3 [SD = 2.8]). We further classified participants as current smokers (reported past-month cigarette smoking) and former smokers (no past-month smoking). Adjusted logistic regression assessed associations of using e-cigarettes to quit smoking with demographic, cigarette and e-cigarette use patterns, e-cigarette flavor preference, and risk perception variables.

Results: Overall, 41.8% of the sample reported that they "have used an e-cigarette to quit smoking." In adjusted models, older age, White race, higher e-cigarette frequency, and preference for using a combination of e-cigarette flavors predicted increased odds of having used e-cigarettes to quit smoking (p < .05). Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking was not associated with current or former cigarette smoking status or perceptions that "e-cigarettes help people quit smoking" or "e-cigarettes are safer than quit smoking medications."

Conclusions: Adolescents and young adults who report more frequent e-cigarette use and preference for using flavor combinations are more likely to use e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. Future studies are needed to determine whether e-cigarette use leads to tobacco abstinence in youth smokers.

Implications: Among young established smokers, more frequent e-cigarette use and preference for using flavors mixed together, but not perceptions of harmfulness of e-cigarettes or comparative safety of e-cigarettes compared with cigarettes or other smoking cessation medications or helpfulness of e-cigarettes in quitting smoking, are associated with using e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cigarette Smoking / epidemiology
  • Cigarette Smoking / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smokers* / psychology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking / therapy
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Smoking / therapy
  • Young Adult