First National Data on e-Cigarette Use in Adults Released

Pam Harrison

October 28, 2015

Current smokers and former smokers who quit only recently, as well as smokers who tried to quit in the recent past, are more likely to use e-cigarettes compared with former smokers who quit smoking more than a year ago, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) suggest.

"I don't think we can say that current and recent former smokers as well as smokers who have tried to recently quit are using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking — we can't get that directly from the data, because they could be using e-cigarettes to quit, but they could also be using e-cigarettes because they can't have a cigarette in the mall, but they can vape," Charlotte Schoenborn, MPH, of the NCHS, told Medscape Medical News.

"So, unfortunately, our survey can't disentangle that kind of information, but that is something we need to be looking at over time."

The brief, which was published online October 28, highlights the first estimates of e-cigarette use among US adults.

Data were obtained from a nationally representative household interview survey carried out in 2014 involving 36,697 adults. Results showed that in 2014, almost half of current smokers (47.6%) and more than one half of recent former smokers (55.4%) had ever tried an e-cigarette.

This compared with 8.9% of long-term former smokers and 3.2% of adults who had never smoked.

About 1 in 6 current smokers (15.9%) of those surveyed and nearly 1 in 4 recent former smokers (22%) currently used e-cigarettes, compared with only 2.3% of long-term former smokers and 0.4% of adults who had never smoked.

Current smokers who had tried to quit in the past year were almost twice as likely to be current users of e-cigarettes compared with smokers who had not tried to quit.

Overall, survey results revealed that 12.6% of adults living in the United States in 2014 had tried an e-cigarette at least once in their lifetime.

e-Cigarette use varied by age and was higher, at 20%, among adults aged 18 to 24 years; use declined steadily as age increased.

Even some 10% of people aged 18 to 24 years who had never smoked had tried an e-cigarette, the report's authors note.

"The fact that 10% of nonsmoking younger people had tried an e-cigarette raises the question, What's the future of their use? But, again, we are not going to know that until we see it over time," Dr Schoenborn said.

Fewer than 4% of adults reported currently using e-cigarettes, but current use also depended on race, being highest among both non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native adults, at 10.7%, and lower among non-Hispanic white adults, Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, and non-Hispanic Asians, at 4.6%, 2.1%, 1.8%, and 1.5%, respectively.

Dr Schoenborn pointed out that another survey conducted by the CDC a few years ago showed that use of e-cigarettes was lower than it appeared to be from the current survey.

"There is certainly a big push right now in making e-cigarettes visible and accessible, and over time, we will know if this is a real trend or not, but right now, it's the beginning of the story, and we're really only at the start of what might become a trend."

The authors report no relevant financial relationships.

NCHS Data Brief. Published online October 289, 2015. Full text

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