Electronic cigarette use intensity measurement challenges and regulatory implications

Tob Control. 2021 May 31;tobaccocontrol-2021-056483. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056483. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Assessing tobacco use intensity allows researchers to examine tobacco use in greater detail than assessing ever or current use only. Tobacco use intensity measures have been developed that are specific to tobacco products, such as asking smokers to report number of cigarettes smoked per day. However, consensus on electronic cigarette use intensity measures that can be used for survey research has yet to be established due to electronic cigarette product and user behavior heterogeneity. While some survey measures that attempt to assess electronic cigarette use intensity exist, such as examining number of 'times' using an electronic cigarette per day, number of puffs taken from an electronic cigarette per day, volume of electronic cigarette liquid consumed per day, or nicotine concentration of electronic cigarette liquid, most measures have limitations. Challenges in electronic cigarette measurement often stem from variations across electronic cigarette device and liquid characteristics as well as the difficulty that many electronic cigarette users have regarding answering questions about their electronic cigarette device, liquid, or behavior. The inability for researchers to measure electronic cigarette use intensity accurately has important implications such as failing to detect unintended consequences of regulatory policies. Development of electronic cigarette use intensity measures, though not without its challenges, can improve understanding of electronic cigarette use behaviors and associated health outcomes and inform development of regulatory policies.

Keywords: addiction; electronic nicotine delivery devices; non-cigarette tobacco products.