Predictors of e-cigarette and cigarette use trajectory classes from early adolescence to emerging adulthood across four years (2013-2017) of the PATH Study

Nicotine Tob Res. 2022 May 11;ntac119. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac119. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: This study examines predictors of trajectories of cigarette and e-cigarette use among a cohort of U.S. adolescents transitioning into young adulthood. Comparing trajectories of each tobacco product is important to determine if different intervention targets are needed to prevent progression to daily use.

Methods: Latent trajectory class analyses identified cigarette and e-cigarette use (never, ever excluding past 12-month, past 12-month (excluding past 30-day (P30D)), P30D 1-5 days, P30D 6+ days) trajectory classes, separately, among U.S. youth (12-17; N= 10,086) using the first 4 waves (2013-2017) of data from the nationally representative PATH Study. Weighted descriptive analyses described the class characteristics. Weighted multinomial logistic regression analyses examined demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral predictors of class membership.

Results: Younger adolescents 12-15 years had lower tobacco use compared to 16-17 year olds and less stable classes. In the 16-17 year group, there were five unique trajectories of cigarette smoking, including a Persistent High Frequency class. Four e-cigarette use trajectories were identified; but not a persistent use class. Shared predictors of class membership for cigarettes and e-cigarettes included mental health problems, other tobacco use, marijuana use, and poorer academic achievement. Male sex and household tobacco use were unique e-cigarette trajectory class predictors.

Conclusions: There was no evidence that initiation with e-cigarettes as the first product tried was associated with cigarette progression (nor cigarettes as first product and e-cigarette progression). Interventions should focus on well-established risk factors such as mental health and other substance use to prevent progression of use for both tobacco products.

Implications: Using nationally representative data and definitions of use that take into account frequency and recency of use, longitudinal 4-year trajectories of e-cigarette and cigarette use among U.S. adolescents transitioning into young adulthood were identified. Results among 16-17 year olds revealed a class of persistent high frequency cigarette smoking that was not identified for e-cigarette use. Cigarette use progression was not associated with e-cigarettes as the first product tried. Risk factors for progression of use of both products included mental health and other substance use, which are important prevention targets for both tobacco products.