Up to 24% of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) users are concurrent users of both tobacco and e-cigarettes (dual users). Dual users provide an opportunity to assess key motivational processes supporting e-cigarette use, such as the reward value of e-cigarettes. This study used the Choice-Behavior-Under-Cued-Conditions (CBUCC) procedure to examine cue-specific reactions to tobacco and e-cigarettes with a primary focus on evaluating the relative reward value of both forms of cigarettes.
Fifty-four dual users were exposed to a lit tobacco cigarette, their own e-cigarette, or a cup of water across multiple trials. On each trial, participants rated their craving for both tobacco and e-cigarettes and indicated the amount of money they would spend to access the cue. Key measures included craving, amount of money spent to access the cue, latency to access the cue, spending choice time, and consumption.
Participants reported significantly higher craving and spent significantly more money on tobacco and e-cigarette trials than on water trials. The magnitude of cue-specific craving was comparable across tobacco and e-cigarettes, but participants spent significantly more to access tobacco cigarettes than e-cigarettes.
This is the first study to demonstrate cue-specific reactivity to e-cigarettes utilizing a neutral comparison condition and to examine the reward value of e-cigarettes relative to tobacco cigarettes. Overall, the data suggest that e-cigarette puffs are less valued and generate less craving than tobacco cigarette puffs for dual users. The data provide clear support for the utility of CBUCC for examining a range of motivational processes supporting e-cigarette use.
The test procedure used in this research generates multiple indices of nicotine and tobacco motivation and allows for an explicit comparison of those variables in people who use both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes.