PURPOSE: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a new type of device that delivers vaporized nicotine without the tobacco combustion of regular cigarettes. We sought to understand awareness of and willingness to try e-cigarettes among adolescent males, a group that is at risk for smoking initiation and may use e-cigarettes as a "gateway" to smoking.
METHODS: A national sample of 11-19-year-old males (n = 228) completed an online survey in November 2011. We recruited participants through their parents, who were members of a panel of U.S. households constructed using random-digit dialing and addressed-based sampling.
RESULTS: Only two participants (< 1%) had previously tried e-cigarettes. Among those who had not tried e-cigarettes, most (67%) had heard of them. Awareness was higher among older and non-Hispanic adolescents. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) participants were willing to try either a plain or flavored e-cigarette, but willingness to try plain versus flavored varieties did not differ. Smokers were more willing to try any e-cigarette than nonsmokers (74% vs. 13%; OR 10.25, 95% CI 2.88, 36.46). Nonsmokers who had more negative beliefs about the typical smoker were less willing to try e-cigarettes (OR .58, 95% CI .43, .79).
CONCLUSIONS: Most adolescent males were aware of e-cigarettes, and a substantial minority were willing to try them. Given that even experimentation with e-cigarettes could lead to nicotine dependence and subsequent use of other tobacco products, regulatory and behavioral interventions are needed to prevent "gateway" use by adolescent nonsmokers. Campaigns promoting negative images of smokers or FDA bans on sales to youth may help deter use.