Concurrent Choice Assessment of Preference and Substitutability of E-cigarettes and Heated Tobacco Products for Combustible Cigarettes Among African American and White Smokers

Nicotine Tob Res. 2023 Jul 14;25(8):1505-1508. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntad052.


Introduction: Alternative nicotine delivery products, including electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heated tobacco products (HTPs), contain fewer toxicants than combustible cigarettes and offer a potential for harm reduction. Research on the substitutability of e-cigarettes and HTPs is crucial for understanding their impact on public health. This study examined subjective and behavioral preferences for an e-cigarette and HTP relative to participants' usual brand combustible cigarette (UBC) in African American and White smokers naïve to alternative products.

Aims and methods: Twenty-two adult African American (n = 12) and White (n = 10) smokers completed randomized study sessions with their UBC and study provided e-cigarette and HTP. A concurrent choice task allowed participants to earn puffs of the products but placed UBC on a progressive ratio schedule, making puffs harder to earn, and e-cigarette and HTP on a fixed ratio schedule to assess behavioral preference for the products. Behavioral preference was then compared to self-reported subjective preference.

Results: Most participants had a subjective preference for UBC (n = 11, 52.4%), followed by an equal preference for e-cigarette (n = 5, 23.8%) and HTP (n = 5, 23.8%). During the concurrent choice task, participants showed a behavioral preference (i.e., more earned puffs) for the e-cigarette (n = 9, 42.9%), followed by HTP (n = 8, 38.1%), and UBC (n = 4, 19.1%). Participants earned significantly more puffs of the alternative products compared to UBC (p = .011) with no difference in earned puffs between e-cigarettes and HTP (p = .806).

Conclusions: In a simulated lab setting, African American and White smokers were willing to substitute UBC for an e-cigarette or HTP when the attainment of UBC became more difficult.

Trial registration: NCT04646668.

Implications: Findings suggest that African American and White smokers are willing to substitute their UBC for an alternative nicotine delivery product (e-cigarette or HTP) when the attainment of cigarettes became more difficult in a simulated lab setting. Findings require confirmation among a larger sample under real-world conditions but add to growing evidence suggesting the acceptability of alternative nicotine delivery products among racially diverse smokers. These data are important as policies that limit the availability or appeal of combustible cigarettes are considered or enacted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American
  • Choice Behavior
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Nicotiana
  • Nicotine
  • Smokers* / psychology
  • Tobacco Products*
  • White


  • Nicotine

Associated data