E-Cigarettes Connected to Problematic Drinking, Study Finds

Knock-on effects of e-cigarette use should not be ignored, researchers say

Amsterdam, October 28, 2015

Using e-cigarettes is related to problematic drinking, according to new research published in Addictive Behaviors. In a study involving around 1400 people, researchers also found that more women than men use e-cigarettes socially, opposite to patterns seen in regular cigarette smoking.

The authors of the new study, from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the United States, say it’s crucial to consider the knock-on effects of e-cigarette use when evaluating their safety, not just their direct health effects.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were developed to mimic real cigarettes, giving users the same look, feel and experience as smoking a cigarette. They are widely promoted as a ‘healthy’ alternative to smoking and as support devices for smoking cessation. More than 6% of the general population – and 17% of people with addictions – use e-cigarettes.

Because of the rapid increase in their use, research has focused on their health effects. However, the new study looks at one of the secondary effects of e-cigarette use and suggests that people need to be aware of the link between e-cigarette use and problematic drinking.

“This area of research is extremely important and I don’t want it to get pushed to the side,” said Alexandra Hershberger, lead author of the study from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the United States. “Establishing the direct health effects of e-cigarette use is important but it’s vital to look at the secondary effects too.”

Previous studies have revealed a strong link between cigarette smoking and drinking, so the researchers hypothesized that a similar connection may be found with e-cigarette use and drinking. They surveyed two groups of people who drink alcohol using a modified version of the Nicotine and Other Substance Interaction Expectancy Questionnaire (NOSIE) to find out whether people expected to use e-cigarettes and alcohol together.

In both groups, of 692 and 714 people, the survey revealed that drinking alcohol leads to e-cigarette use and vice versa. E-cigarette users were significantly more likely to drink problematically than non-users in both groups. What’s more, people who expected to use e-cigarettes and alcohol together reported drinking more.

The results suggest that using e-cigarettes to quit smoking could mean people miss out on the benefits of quitting; smoking cessation generally results in people drinking less alcohol, but using e-cigarettes means this decrease may not happen.

“If you quit smoking cold turkey, it affects other behaviors associated with smoking, such as drinking,” said Alexandra. “By replacing smoking with e-cigarette use, it could be that you’re at risk of continuing behaviors you don’t want to continue. This is particularly serious for people with alcohol addiction – using e-cigarettes could make it harder to stop drinking.”

The study also revealed that more women use e-cigarettes socially than men. In general, men report more risk-taking behaviors than women, including smoking, drinking and drug use. The findings suggest that women may not perceive e-cigarette use as risky.

“We were surprised to see higher e-cigarette use in women,” said Alexandra. “Generally men tend to report more risk-taking across the board, but in our study, women outnumbered men in terms of e-cigarette use. This could be because women perceive the device differently to other risk-taking behavior; e-cigarettes tend to be viewed more positively than cigarettes. Those views could be driving more use in women than we’d expect.”

Read more on Elsevier Connect.


Article details
Combined expectancies of alcohol and e-cigarette use relate to higher alcohol use” by Alexandra R. Hershberger, Kenny A. Karyadi, J. Davis VanderVeen and Melissa A. Cyders (doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.08.005). The article appears in Addictive Behaviors, Volume 52 (January 2016), published by Elsevier.

A copy of the paper is available to credentialed journalists upon request, contact Elsevier’s Newsroom at newsroom@elsevier.com or +31 20 4853564. 

About Addictive Behaviors 
Addictive Behaviors is an international peer-reviewed journal publishing high quality human research on addictive behaviors and disorders since 1976. The journal accepts submissions on substance-related addictions such as the abuse of alcohol, drugs and nicotine and behavioral addictions such as compulsive gambling and internet excesses. The journal primarily publishes behavioral and psychosocial research but articles span the fields of psychology, sociology, psychiatry, epidemiology, social policy, medicine, pharmacology and neuroscience. www.journals.elsevier.com/addictive-behaviors

About Elsevier
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