Background: Prevalence rates of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS; i.e., e-cigarette/vape) use has grown exponentially in the past few years. College students present a particularly vulnerable group for ENDS use. The current study sought to expand the literature by examining the context in which college students use ENDS, co-occurring health risks beyond traditional tobacco use, and the role of ethnicity in ENDS use.
Methods: Health-risk behavior survey data was collected from 452 undergraduates attending a large, public urban university during the 2015-2016 academic year. Ever ENDS users vs. non-ENDS users were compared across potential demographic, health-risk, and other health-related correlates.
Results: Almost 40% of participants reported lifetime use of ENDS. No ethnic or sex differences were found. The primary source for obtaining ENDS was friends and ENDS were most often used with friends vs. alone or with others not considered friends. Participants engaging in risky alcohol use and cigarette smoking had a higher likelihood of endorsing ENDS use. Conclusions/Importance: The current study indicated that a large proportion of college students have tried ENDS irrespective of ethnicity or sex. An increasingly normative social context may inform the popularity of ENDS use across ethnicity and sex, but additional research using ethnically diverse samples is warranted. Risky alcohol use appears to be a significant correlate of ENDS use, even after accounting for the robust relationship between ENDS use and cigarette smoking. The robust relationship between alcohol and tobacco use likely extends to ENDS use.
Keywords: Alcohol use; college students; e-cigarette; electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS); vaping; young adults.