Limited utility of detailed e-cigarette use measures: An analysis of NESARC-III

Addict Behav. 2019 Oct;97:56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.05.001. Epub 2019 May 2.


Introduction: The heterogeneity of e-cigarette products and e-liquids pose challenges to surveillance of e-cigarette exposure. The goal of this study was to evaluate the internal consistency of e-cigarette use frequency, quantity, and duration measures in a national population-based survey.

Methods: Data were drawn from the 2012-2013 for the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (n = 36,309; NESARC-III). Adults who used e-cigarettes/e-liquid during the past year (≤18 years old; n = 1,229) were asked about their age of first use, recency of use, quantity (i.e., cartridges, drops), nicotine concentration, and duration (hours). Several internal consistency parameters were compared for e-cigarette measures in past-year (n = 750) and past 30-day e-cigarette users (n = 472) overall, and by frequency of use (i.e., infrequent [≤3 days/month], non-daily [1-6 days/week], daily).

Results: There were no significant differences in quantity, nicotine concentration, or duration by frequency of use in past 30-day e-cigarette users. One-third of past 30-day and almost half of past-year users did not know the nicotine concentration of their cartridge or e-liquid. Correlations between all e-cigarette use measures were low, with the highest correlations seen between e-liquid quantity and cartridge quantity in all past 30-day users (r = 0.28) and those reporting any e-liquid use (r = 0.40). Cronbach's alpha and mean interitem correlations were low across all user groups.

Conclusions: Low to moderate correlation across e-cigarette measures in e-cigarette users implies low internal consistency of these measures in a population survey. Findings suggest measures such as quantity and nicotine concentration might more appropriate in samples of recent experienced e-cigarette users than in general population samples.

Keywords: E-cigarettes; Epidemiology; Frequency; Nicotine; Quantity; Survey measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Correlation of Data
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaping / epidemiology*