Racial/Ethnic Differences in Associations of Non-cigarette Tobacco Product Use With Subsequent Initiation of Cigarettes in US Youths

Nicotine Tob Res. 2021 May 24;23(6):900-908. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntaa170.


Introduction: Understanding which non-cigarette tobacco products precede smoking in youth across different racial/ethnic groups can inform policies that consider tobacco-related health disparities.

Methods: We used nationally representative, longitudinal data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study waves 1-4. The sample was a dynamic cohort of cigarette-naïve youth aged 12-17 years. Mixed-effects models were used to assess non-cigarette product (e-cigarette, cigar product, or other product) use with cigarette use over 1-year intervals.

Results: Of the 28 788 observations pooled across waves 1-4, respondents were 48.7% non-Hispanic white, 13.9% non-Hispanic black, and 23.1% Hispanic. Odds of cigarette initiation over 1-year follow-up were higher among youth with prior use of e-cigarettes (odds ratio [OR], 2.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.21-3.45), cigars (OR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.42-2.80), or other products (OR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.28-2.14) compared to never users. At the population level, 20.6% of cigarette initiation was attributable to e-cigarette use among white youth and 21.6% among Hispanic youth, while only 3.5% of cigarette initiation was attributable to e-cigarette use among black youth. In contrast, 9.1% of cigarette initiation for black youth was attributable to cigar use compared to only 3.9% for both white and Hispanic youth.

Conclusions: Prior use of e-cigarettes, cigars, and other non-cigarette products were all associated with subsequent cigarette initiation. However, white and Hispanic youth were more likely to initiate cigarettes through e-cigarette use (vs. cigar or other product use), while black youth were more likely to initiate cigarettes through cigar use (vs. e-cigarette or other product use).

Implications: Our findings suggest that previous studies on effects of non-cigarette tobacco products may overlook the critical role of cigar products as a pathway into cigarette smoking among US youth, particularly black youth. While our data support the importance of e-cigarette use as a pathway into smoking, regulatory actions aimed at addressing youth e-cigarette use alone may contribute to disparities in black versus white tobacco use and further exacerbate inequities in tobacco-related disease. Thus, contemporary policy development and discourse about the effects of non-cigarette tobacco products on cigarette initiation should consider cigar and other non-cigarette products as well as e-cigarettes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cigarette Smoking*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Tobacco Use
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaping*