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“I’m both smoking and vaping”: a longitudinal qualitative study of US young adults who tried to quit smoking cigarettes by using electronic cigarettes


Objective To describe how young adults use electronic cigarettes (electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)) for smoking cessation and reasons why they may or may not successfully quit smoking.

Methods Longitudinal qualitative data were collected annually from 2017 to 2019 for 25 young adult tobacco users (aged 18–29 years) in California (USA) who used ENDS to quit/reduce smoking. Thematic and trajectory analyses were used to identify key within-person and between-person changes in tobacco/nicotine use over time.

Results Five types of tobacco use transition were identified among baseline dual users of cigarettes and ENDS: sustained dual use without reduced smoking (n=8), transition to exclusive daily ENDS use (n=6), sustained dual use with reduced smoking (n=5), transition back to exclusive smoking (n=4) and transition to neither smoking nor vaping (n=2). Participants’ ENDS use behaviour varied over time in terms of vaping quantity and device characteristics (eg, changing nicotine concentrations/flavours, switching between multiple devices). Three themes that related to successfully replacing cigarettes with ENDS were perceived positive physical effects, perceived satisfaction and enjoyment and context changes. Four themes for unsuccessful replacement were perceived negative physical discomforts, perceived addictiveness and harm, unsatisfactory substitution for cigarettes and device malfunction.

Conclusions Young adults’ experiences with using ENDS as a smoking cessation aid were highly variable. Adequate nicotine delivery and perceived safety and benefits contributed to successfully reducing or quitting cigarettes. Providing behavioural counselling and standardising ENDS products may enhance cessation for young adults.

  • cessation
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • nicotine
  • priority/special populations

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The qualitative data underlying this article, even deidentified, may include some information that can sufficiently specify the participant, therefore cannot be shared outside the research team. The quantitative data including tobacco use and sociodemographic characteristics will be shared on reasonable request to the corresponding author.

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