Associations between eating disorder symptoms and smoking and vaping use and motives in college students

Eat Behav. 2022 Aug;46:101652. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2022.101652. Epub 2022 Jul 5.


A positive association between eating disorder (ED) symptoms and cigarette use exists. However, little is known about the association between ED symptoms and e-cigarette use, as well as how these symptoms are related to motives for using cigarettes and e-cigarettes. In this study, 716 college students (M age = 19.23, SD = 1.65; 61 % female) completed an online survey that included the Eating Pathology Symptoms Inventory, smoking and vaping questionnaires, and the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised, which was modified for smoking and vaping. We examined mean differences in ED symptoms in lifetime (and past-month) cigarette and e-cigarette users versus non-users, and investigated correlations between ED symptoms and smoking and vaping motives. Finally, we evaluated whether biological sex influenced the results. Overall, 30.4 % of students reported lifetime smoking, 10.5 % reported past-month smoking, 23 % reported lifetime vaping, and 9.5 % reported past-month vaping. With the exception of higher mean scores for negative attitudes toward obesity in students reporting lifetime smoking versus never smoking after adjusting for sex (M = 5.97 vs. M = 4.52, t[713] = -3.76, q = 0.004), no significant mean differences emerged between those who used nicotine and those who did not, which reflected small to moderate effect sizes. Few associations were observed between ED symptoms and nicotine use motives. These findings suggest that the comorbidity between ED symptoms and smoking and vaping in a non-clinical sample is minimal, although additional research with larger sample sizes of males and females is needed.

Keywords: Disordered eating; Eating disorders; Smoking; Smoking motives; Vaping; Vaping motives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vaping* / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Nicotine