Modeling the Effects of E-cigarettes on Smoking Behavior: Implications for Future Adult Smoking Prevalence

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Abstract

Background:

Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use has increased rapidly in recent years. Given the unknown effects of e-cigarette use on cigarette smoking behaviors, e-cigarette regulation has become the subject of considerable controversy. In the absence of longitudinal data documenting the long-term effects of e-cigarette use on smoking behavior and population smoking outcomes, computational models can guide future empirical research and provide insights into the possible effects of e-cigarette use on smoking prevalence over time.

Methods:

Agent-based model examining hypothetical scenarios of e-cigarette use by smoking status and e-cigarette effects on smoking initiation and smoking cessation.

Results:

If e-cigarettes increase individual-level smoking cessation probabilities by 20%, the model estimates a 6% reduction in smoking prevalence by 2060 compared with baseline model (no effects) outcomes. In contrast, e-cigarette use prevalence among never smokers would have to rise dramatically from current estimates, with e-cigarettes increasing smoking initiation by more than 200% relative to baseline model estimates to achieve a corresponding 6% increase in smoking prevalence by 2060.

Conclusions:

Based on current knowledge of the patterns of e-cigarette use by smoking status and the heavy concentration of e-cigarette use among current smokers, the simulated effects of e-cigarettes on smoking cessation generate substantially larger changes to smoking prevalence compared with their effects on smoking initiation.

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