Recommended core items to assess e-cigarette use in population-based surveys

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Abstract

A consistent approach using standardised items to assess e-cigarette use in both youth and adult populations will aid cross-survey and cross-national comparisons of the effect of e-cigarette (and tobacco) policies and improve our understanding of the population health impact of e-cigarette use. Focusing on adult behaviour, we propose a set of e-cigarette use items, discuss their utility and potential adaptation, and highlight e-cigarette constructs that researchers should avoid without further item development. Reliable and valid items will strengthen the emerging science and inform knowledge synthesis for policy-making. Building on informal discussions at a series of international meetings of 65 experts from 15 countries, the authors provide recommendations for assessing e-cigarette use behaviour, relative perceived harm, device type, presence of nicotine, flavours and reasons for use. We recommend items assessing eight core constructs: e-cigarette ever use, frequency of use and former daily use; relative perceived harm; device type; primary flavour preference; presence of nicotine; and primary reason for use. These items should be standardised or minimally adapted for the policy context and target population. Researchers should be prepared to update items as e-cigarette device characteristics change. A minimum set of e-cigarette items is proposed to encourage consensus around items to allow for cross-survey and cross-jurisdictional comparisons of e-cigarette use behaviour. These proposed items are a starting point. We recognise room for continued improvement, and welcome input from e-cigarette users and scientific colleagues.

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