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Open Access Using an e-Cigarette is Like Eating Tofu When You Really Want Meat

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Whereas controversy about the e-cigarette’s effectiveness and safety as a smoking cessation tool continues, e-cigarette use prevalence continues rising. In this study, we sought to describe experiences of adult e-cigarette users and to examine their motivations, beliefs, and use patterns.


This qualitative study included one-on-one semi-structured phone interviews with 20 current California e-cigarette users (mean age = 38 ± 9.44 years). Interviews were transcribed and thematically analyzed using MAXQDA.


E-cigarettes initially addressed participants’ problems related to smoking; they no longer smelled like cigarette smoke and could avoid smoke-free regulations. Participants highlighted the importance of e-cigarette flavors and of “receiving moral credit” for harm reduction by using e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes. Many described eventual dissatisfaction with e-cigarettes, which resulted in relapse to cigarette smoking and/or dual use with cigarettes. The convenience of e-cigarettes coupled with the pattern of constant use left participants increasingly reliant on e-cigarettes.


Ultimately, failed cessation and dual use exposes smokers to greater levels of nicotine, while still exposing them to cigarette smoke. Public health campaigns should promote awareness of the risks of using e-cigarettes, including failed cessation attempts, dual use, addiction, and other health consequences.
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Keywords: addiction; dual use; e-cigarette flavors; e-cigarettes; smoking cessation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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