The prevalence of electronic cigarette use has exponentially grown. However there is a lack of empirical information about why individuals use these devices. Additionally, adolescents may be vulnerable to initiation of e-cigarettes because of beliefs that e-cigarettes are not harmful or addictive, youth-targeted marketing, availability of e-cigarettes in flavors attractive to youths, and ease of accessing e-cigarettes. HEAL has led or been involved in research on the determinants, correlates, and consequences of adolescent e-cigarette use. Additionally, we are currently investigating the abuse potential of e-cigarettes in the laboratory.

Notable Contributions:

  • E-cigarette use is more common than conventional cigarette use among teens, and a sizeable portion of teen e-cigarette users have never smoked combustible tobacco.
  • We have been involved in work showing the importance of peer influences on teen e-cigarette use, such that adolescents who have friends that use e-cigarettes are much more likely to use e-cigarettes themselves.1
  • Among 9th graders who never smoked a combustible tobacco product, those who used e-cigarettes (vs. those who never used e-cigarettes) were more likely to initiate use of conventional cigarettes, cigars, and hookah and were more likely to become users of multiple combustible tobacco products.2

Current and Future Directions:

  • A placebo-controlled, double-blind laboratory study investigating the impact of flavorings on the abuse potential of e-cigarettes (P50-CA180905-02S1, Supplement Director – Leventhal; MPIs- Samet, Pentz).
  • A study that incorporates both laboratory and ecological momentary assessment methodologies to investigate whether e-cigarettes surpass, have no effect, or possibly increase smoking behavior among dual users (pilot grant from the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science [P50-CA180905] in collaboration with Dr. Jimi Huh).


This work informs the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies about tactics for regulating electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products. We hope to identify product dimensions of e-cigarettes that can be altered in order to protect youth, mitigate the harms of tobacco, and maximize the benefits of harm-reducing tobacco products on the population.