Throat Hit in Users of the Electronic Cigarette: An Exploratory Study

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A cross-sectional survey on the Internet in 2012–2014 was used to study the “throat hit,” the specific sensation in the throat felt by users of e-cigarettes. Participants were 1672 current users of e-cigarettes, visitors of Websites dedicated to e-cigarettes and to smoking cessation. It was assessed whether the strength of the throat hit was associated with the characteristics of e-cigarettes and e-liquids, modifications of the devices, patterns of use, reasons for use, satisfaction with e-cigarettes, dependence on e-cigarettes, smoking behavior, and perceived effects on smoking. The strongest throat hit was obtained by using better-quality models and liquids with high nicotine content. Those who reported a “very strong” throat hit used liquids with 17.3 mg/mL nicotine, versus 7.1 mg/mL for those reporting a “very weak” hit (p < .001). The strength of the throat hit was also associated with ratings of dependence on e-cigarettes, and with the perceived efficacy of e-cigarettes to relieve craving for tobacco and to facilitate smoking cessation. All the variables assessing satisfaction with e-cigarettes were associated with a stronger throat hit. From a public health perspective, there is a trade-off between e-cigarette models that provide high levels of nicotine, a strong throat hit, high satisfaction, and more effects on smoking, but may also be addictive, and models than contain less nicotine and are less addictive, but produce a weaker throat hit, are less satisfactory, and are possibly less efficient at helping people quit smoking. This trade-off must be kept in mind when regulating e-cigarettes.

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