Young Adult E-Cigarette Users: Perceptions of Stress, Body Image, and Weight Control

Eat Weight Disord. 2020 Apr;25(2):487-495. doi: 10.1007/s40519-018-0627-6. Epub 2018 Dec 15.


Objective: With the rise in electronic cigarette (ENDS) use among US young adults, more research is needed on expectations for use and perceptions related to body image, weight control, and stress relief.

Methods: College students (N = 230; modal age 21 years; 68% female) completed an online survey assessing cigarette smoking and ENDS, dieting and body image, perceptions about flavors, stress, weight gain prevention, and appetite regulation.

Sample characteristics: Dual use (cigarette and ENDS) was reported by n = 69 (30.0%). Exclusive cigarette smoking was endorsed by n = 53 (23%) with exclusive ENDS use reported by n = 15 (6.5%). Ninety-three participants (40.5%) reported not using either product.

Results: Among those using ENDS, < 33% reported using as a stress management tool, < 15% reported using ENDS to control appetite, and > 70% reported using cartridges that tasked like sweets. There was a positive correlation between dieting behaviors and body concern, suggesting those who reported higher use of ENDS for weight and appetite regulation also had higher pathological eating scores and concern over body shape and size.

Conclusion: Prevention and education related to weight, body image, and tobacco are needed to address misperceptions of tobacco products.

Level of evidence: Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.

Keywords: Body dissatisfaction; Body image; Electronic cigarette; Flavors; Smoking; Weight control; Young adults.