Do vaping devices impact frequency of cigarette smoking in young adults?


Originally marketed to help adults quit smoking, electronic nicotine delivery systems have also been seen as a way of getting teenagers hooked on nicotine. An investigation offers some insight.

When the electronic cigarette was first introduced, it was marketed as a way to help current cigarette smokers initiate the quitting process. However, a number of teenagers and young adults who hadn’t previously smoked started using the devices. An investigation in JAMA Network Open examines whether there’s a link between the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems and changes in the frequency or intensity of cigarette smoking among ever-smoking young adults.1

Investigators of this cohort study used 3 waves of data from 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and 2015-2016 that came from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, which is an ongoing longitudinal study of adults, teenagers, and children. Changes between wave 2 and wave 3 were examined using a matched sample. They included 1096 electronic nicotine delivery system-naïve, ever smoking young adults aged 18 to 24 years at wave 1 who also participated in wave 2 and wave 3, along with complete data in the PATH Study were included.

The main outcomes the researchers looked at included change in smoking frequency, which they defined as number of smoking days in the previous 30 days at wave 3 versus wave 2 as well as change in smoking intensity, which they defined as the number of smoking days in the previous 30 days multiplied by the average number of cigarettes consumed on smoking days at wave 3 versus wave 2. In the cohort, the majority of the participants were women and white. The average age of a participant was 21.4 years. During wave 1, 161 of the young adults were daily smokers in the previous 30 days. Following propensity score matching, the researchers found no statistically significant links between any definition of wave 2 electronic nicotine delivery system use or changes in either the intensity or frequency of smoking at the end of wave 3.

The researchers concluded that using an electronic nicotine delivery system did not appear to be linked with either decreased or increased cigarette smoking during a 1-year period. However, they did note that as the marketplace of vaping products continues to change, often in ways that appeal to adolescents and young adults, this could alter the connection.


1. Pearson J, Sharma E, Rui N, et al. Association of electronic nicotine delivery system use with cigarette smoking progression or reduction among young adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11):e2015893. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.15893

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