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Experimental tobacco marketplace: substitutability of e-cigarette liquid for cigarettes as a function of nicotine strength
  1. Derek A Pope1,
  2. Lindsey Poe1,
  3. Jeffrey S Stein1,
  4. Brent A Kaplan1,
  5. Bryan W Heckman2,
  6. Leonard H Epstein3,
  7. Warren K Bickel1,4,5,6,7,8
  1. 1 Addiction Recovery Research Center, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, Virginia, USA
  2. 2 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
  3. 3 Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA
  4. 4 Graduate Program in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health, Virginia Tech, Roanoke, Virginia, USA
  5. 5 Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
  6. 6 Department of Neuroscience, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
  7. 7 Faculty of Health Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
  8. 8 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, Virginia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Warren K Bickel, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, VA 24016, USA; wkbickel{at}


Background The experimental tobacco marketplace (ETM) provides a method to estimate, prior to implementation, the effects of new products or policies on purchasing across various products in a complex tobacco marketplace. We used the ETM to examine the relationship between nicotine strength and substitutability of alternative products for cigarettes to contribute to the literature on regulation of e-liquid nicotine strength.

Methods The present study contained four sampling and four ETM purchasing sessions. During sampling sessions, participants were provided 1 of 4 e-liquid strengths (randomised) to sample for 2 days followed by an ETM purchasing session. The nicotine strength sampled in the 2 days prior to an ETM session was the same strength available for purchase in the next ETM. Each participant sampled and could purchase 0 mg/mL, 6 mg/mL, 12 mg/mL and 24 mg/mL e-liquid, among other products, during the study.

Results Cigarette demand was unaltered across e-liquid strength. E-liquid was the only product to substitute for cigarettes across more than one e-liquid strength. Substitutability increased as a function of e-liquid strength, with the 24 mg/mL displaying the greatest substitutability of all products.

Conclusions The present study found that e-liquid substitutability increased with nicotine strength, at least up to 24 mg/mL e-liquid. However, the effects of e-liquid nicotine strength on cigarette purchasing were marginal and total nicotine purchased increased as e-liquid nicotine strength increased.

  • nicotine
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • economics
  • harm reduction
  • price

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  • Contributors All authors have contributed to and approved the submission materials.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and by NIH Grant No. P01 CA200512, 2015. BWH was supported by K23 DA041616.

  • Competing interests WKB is a principal in HealthSim, LLC, and NotifiUs, LLC.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The Virginia Tech Institutional Review Board approved all procedures and protocols.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Readers are encouraged to email to obtain more data for this study.