Changes in Nicotine Dependence among Smokers Using Electronic Cigarettes to Reduce Cigarette Smoking in a Randomized Controlled Trial

Randomized Control Trial Methods Workgroup of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products

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6 Scopus citations


Introduction: How nicotine dependence will be affected when current smokers initiate electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use to reduce cigarette smoking is unknown. This study evaluated cigarette, e-cigarette, and total nicotine dependence more than 6 months among smokers reducing cigarette consumption by replacing with e-cigarettes. Aims and Methods: Adult cigarette smokers were randomized to one of four conditions (36 mg/ml e-cigarette, 8 mg/ml e-cigarette, 0 mg/ml e-cigarette, or cigarette-substitute [CS] [provided at no cost]) and instructed to reduce their cigarette smoking by 75% at 1 month. Participants completed follow-up at 1, 3, and 6 months. The Penn State Nicotine Dependence Index (PSNDI) measured dependence on cigarettes (PSCDI) and e-cigarettes (PSECDI). Urine cotinine measured total nicotine exposure. Linear mixed effects models for each outcome were conducted and included interaction terms between visit and condition. Results: Participants (n = 520) were 58.8% female, 67.3% White, and 48.0 years old. At baseline, the median number of cigarettes smoked per day was 17.3 and the mean PSCDI score was 13.4, with no significant differences between conditions. Participants in the e-cigarette conditions reported significantly lower PSCDI scores, compared with baseline, and with the CS condition at all follow-up visits. Those in the 36 mg/ml e-cigarette condition reported greater PSECDI scores at 6 months, compared with baseline and the 0 mg/ml and 8 mg/ml conditions. At all follow-up visits, there were no differences in total nicotine exposure compared to baseline, nor between any conditions. Conclusions: E-cigarette use was associated with reduced cigarette dependence, compared to the CS, without significant increases in total nicotine exposure. Implications: Initiation of electronic cigarette use while continuing to smoke could potentially increase nicotine dependence. In this randomized trial aimed at helping smokers to reduce their cigarette intake, we found that use of an e-cigarette was associated with a reduction in cigarette dependence and an increase in e-cigarette dependence (in the condition with the highest nicotine concentration only), with no long term increase in total nicotine dependence or nicotine exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-378
Number of pages7
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine

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