How Do Adolescents Get Their E-Cigarettes and Other Electronic Vaping Devices?

Am J Health Promot. 2019 Mar;33(3):420-429. doi: 10.1177/0890117118790366. Epub 2018 Aug 1.


Purpose: More adolescents "vape" (use e-cigarettes and similar devices) than smoke, but little is known about how underage users obtain vaping devices. This knowledge could inform efforts to prevent youth access.

Design: Original cross-sectional survey with social media recruitment.

Settings: Online.

Participants: A total of 1729 adolescents (2809 qualified on screener; completion rate 61.6%) aged 15 to 17 years who vaped in the past 30 days.

Measures: Adolescents' vaping attitudes, ownership of vaping devices, how they obtain devices, and frequency of borrowing others' devices.

Analysis: Logistic regression.

Results: Most adolescents (78.2%) owned a vaping device. The most common sources were purchasing from a store or online (31.1%), buying from another person (16.3%), or giving someone money to purchase for them (15.0%). The majority (72.8%) had used someone else's vaping device in the past 30 days. Adolescents who vaped more often, did not own a vaping device, vaped in social situations, and had previously been refused purchase were more likely to frequently borrow others' devices.

Conclusions: Despite high rates of ownership, many adolescents borrowed devices, suggesting that borrowing is part of users' social experience, not just a means of acquisition. Although better enforcement of age restrictions could lessen purchasing, future research is needed to understand why adolescents borrow and how their acquisition sources shift over time. That information could be harnessed for targeted, borrowing-related antivaping campaigns.

Keywords: adolescents; e-cigarettes; policy; smoking control; vaping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaping / epidemiology*