Reasons for Vaping

Why do 12th graders use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices? A recent study by Rebecca Evans-Polce and colleagues explored the heterogeneity of reasons for vaping by applying latent class analyses to 2015-2016 data from the Monitoring the Future study.


Confirming other research on young vapers, most U.S. 12th graders vaped for reasons unrelated to cigarettes. Among those whose reasons did involve cigarettes (7%), some might use vaping to quit smoking but many might actually supplement their cigarette use by vaping where smoking is not permitted. Youth in this cigarette-replacement group had a high probability of vaping to get high. The probability of vaping for taste was considerably lower, suggesting that vape-flavors might not offer the best smoking cessation tool for this group.


More than half listed experimentation among the reasons for vaping and almost a third (29%) gave this reason exclusively, forming a unique group among vapers.


Vaping for taste and entertainment formed the largest group at 63% of vapers. Vaping for taste was especially prevalent, suggesting that marketing flavors to teens is effective for sales, and regulation of flavoring may be warranted.


The analyses did not proffer subgroups of vaping primarily to relax or for social and pleasurable reasons. In this respect vaping differs from other substance use.


LCA (latent class analysis) is a person-centered technique that divides a population into mutually exclusive subgroups. These subgroups are identified using multiple observed indicators. In a subgroup some indicators may stand out in their likelihood, be especially unlikely, or be more evenly likely. Other factors, like demographics or other substance use, can be included in the analyses to examine what characteristics may predict being a member of a subgroup to what degree. In the taste and entertainment group, a few other reasons had a 25% or higher likelihood, namely vaping out of boredom, to have a good time, and to relax. In the cigarette-related reasons group, vaping for taste and to relax each had a likelihood of 30% or more. The heterogeneity uncovered by LCA can promote understanding of complex subgroups and tailoring of prevention and intervention programs.


Reasons for vaping among U.S. 12th graders was just released online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Monitoring the Future is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.