Prevalence of Young Adult Vaping, Substance Vaped, and Purchase Location Across Five Categories of Vaping Devices

Nicotine Tob Res. 2021 May 4;23(5):829-835. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntaa232.


Introduction: The rapidly evolving landscape of vaping devices has complicated analyses of use patterns among youth and young adults. The current study describes the prevalence of use, substances vaped, and purchasing behaviors across five different vaping device categories.

Aims and methods: Participants (n = 2505; mean age = 19.2, SD = 0.46) from a cohort in the Los Angeles area completed web-based surveys from June 2018 to October 2019. For each of four device type categories depicted via digital images (any pod-style vape, cigalike, box-mod, vape pen) and for JUUL specifically, participants reported ever and past 30-day use, substance vaped (mostly nicotine, nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol [THC], mostly THC, neither), ownership of device (yes/no), where they obtained that device (eg, purchased themselves, from a friend), and if purchased, purchase location (eg, vape shop, online).

Results: Overall, 44.9% reported ever use, and 26.2% reported past 30-day use of at least one of the devices. The prevalence of past 30-day use was highest for pod-style vapes (any pod = 17.0%; JUUL = 15.1%). Among respondents who reported ever owning any device (n = 643 [25.7%]), 59.9% reported purchasing the device themselves, despite not being of legal purchasing age (15.4% of total sample); across all device types, products were most often purchased in vape shops or online.

Conclusions: Across all devices, the prevalence of self-purchase of vaping devices among underage young adults in the Los Angeles area was high, and most were purchased from a vape shop or online. Tobacco control policies to prevent underage purchase of tobacco products-particularly among never smokers-are needed.

Implications: A high proportion of underage young adults reported owning their own vaping device and having purchased it themselves from a vape shop or online. Stronger tobacco control policies and better enforcement efforts are needed to successfully prevent underage purchase of tobacco products.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Consumer Behavior* / statistics & numerical data
  • Dronabinol*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Nicotine*
  • Prevalence
  • Public Policy
  • Smokers
  • Smoking Devices / classification
  • Smoking Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Control, Formal
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaping / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Nicotine
  • Dronabinol