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Young Adult E-Cigarette and Combustible Tobacco Users Attitudes, Substance Use Behaviors, Mental Health, and Neurocognitive Performance


Nicotine and tobacco product (NTP) use has escalated, largely due to the advent of e-cigarettes. The NTP administration method (i.e., combustible cigarette, e-cigarette) may be an important differentiator. We assessed young adult substance use history, nicotine attitudes, mental health, and neurocognition by the NTP use method. Emerging adults (16-22 year olds) were divided into combustible NTP users (Combustible+ = 79, had used any combustible NTP in the last 6 months), non-combustible users (E-Cig = 43, had used non-combustible NTP, in the past 6 months), and NTP Naïve (n = 79; had not used NTP in the past 6 months) based on past 6-month NTP use patterns. Participants completed self-report and objective neurocognition measures. Analysis of covariance assessed mental health and neurocognition by group, controlling for confounds and correcting for multiple comparisons. Nicotine groups reported more favorable attitudes toward combustible cigarette and e-cigarette use, with taste as the primary reason for e-cigarette use. Combustible+ reported more nicotine dependence and craving. Substance use differed by group, with Combustible+ using the most NTP, alcohol, and cannabis. Nicotine groups reported higher depression and stress symptoms; male Combustible+ reported higher depression symptoms than other same-gender groups. Groups did not differ on neurocognition, though cannabis use was associated with inaccurate emotional Stroop responses. Overall, research suggests that young adult combustible users are likely qualitatively different from non-combustible users. Understanding the unique characteristics related to NTP product use will help guide intervention and prevention development.

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