Relationships Between E-cigarette Use and Subsequent Cigarette Initiation Among Adolescents in the PATH Study: an Entropy Balancing Propensity Score Analysis

Prev Sci. 2022 May;23(4):608-617. doi: 10.1007/s11121-021-01326-4. Epub 2021 Oct 31.


This study aimed to examine the relationship between electronic cigarette use and subsequent combustible cigarette use, controlling for confounding by using a propensity score method approach. Data from the first three annual waves of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study were analyzed (n = 6309). Participants were tobacco-naïve at Wave 1; used e-cigarettes exclusively (n = 414), used combustible cigarettes exclusively (n = 46), or not used any tobacco products (n = 5849) at Wave 2. We conducted entropy balancing propensity score analysis to examine the association between exclusive e-cigarette or cigarette initiation and subsequent cigarette use at Wave 3, adjusting for non-response bias, sampling bias, and confounding. Among tobacco-naïve youth, exclusive e-cigarette use was associated with greater risk for subsequent combustible cigarette smoking initiation (OR = 3.42, 95% CI = (1.99, 5.93)) and past 30-day combustible cigarette use (OR = 2.88, 95% CI = (1.22, 6.86)) in the following year. However, the latter risk was comparatively lower than the risk if youth started with a combustible cigarette (OR = 25.79, 95% CI = (9.68, 68.72)). Results of sensitivity analyses indicated that estimated effects were robust to unmeasured confounding. Use of e-cigarettes in tobacco-naïve youth is associated with increased risk of subsequent past 30-day combustible cigarette use but the risk is an order of magnitude higher if they start with a combustible cigarette.

Keywords: Combustible cigarette use initiation; E-cigarette use; Entropy balancing; Sensitivity analysis; Youth.

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
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Entropy
  • Humans
  • Propensity Score
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Vaping* / epidemiology