"electronic Cigarettes" Are Not Cigarettes, and Why That Matters

Matthew Olonoff*, Raymond Niaura, Brian Hitsman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


As the prevalence rates of cigarette use have declined over the past decade, use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) continues to increase, and companies are heavily invested in manufacturing new e-cigarette products. Scientists are therefore studying e-cigarette use at a rapid rate, generally by conceptualizing e-cigarettes as similar to traditional cigarettes in their use and effects. Thinking of e-cigarettes as largely comparable with cigarettes, however, fails to capture the unique e-cigarette capabilities, user experiences, and effects on nicotine dependence and even health. Assuming that e-cigarette users puff on their devices as they do cigarettes to attain doses of nicotine comparable in magnitude and asking questions about e-cigarette use modeled after how smoking behavior has been usually assessed (eg, puff number, duration, number of cigarettes per day) may miss important differences. A greater appreciation of the distinct uniqueness of e-cigarettes, as compared with cigarettes, will help to accelerate innovative research on e-cigarettes and other electronic devices, leading to new theoretical models and behavioral measures. Implications: With research about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) rapidly increasing, this commentary addresses the conceptualization of e-cigarettes as similar to traditional cigarettes. The more we attempt to understand and measure e-cigarettes as equivalent to cigarettes, the more likely research may err in conclusions about these unique devices. Our commentary notes how using unique conceptualizations and measures for e-cigarettes will help accelerate new research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1441-1444
Number of pages4
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jan 4 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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