Do e-cigarettes help young people quit smoking combustible cigarettes?


E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular among youth, and there is growing concern that the tobacco industry is targeting young people with marketing strategies that appeal specifically to youth including colorful packaging, a significant online presence, celebrity endorsements and more than 7000 flavors, most of which are fruit or confectionary-flavored.

New e-cigarette products targeting youth appear on the market regularly. For example, e-cigarettes designed to vape cannabis have become increasingly popular and are associated with lower perceived risk and increased use. Additional concerns include the limited evidence that e-cigarettes with or without nicotine help smokers quit, the presence of nicotine in e-cigarettes which could hinder cessation efforts and delay cessation, the impact of e-cigarette use on re-normalizing smoking, smoking re-uptake in former smokers, and growing evidence that e-cigarettes might be a gateway to cigarette smoking initiation in youth.

More recently, there has been widespread alarm about vaping-induced respiratory injuries in the US and Canada. A special announcement from the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) in October 2019 reported that most lung injury cases involved tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products and its recommendations included that: people should not vape products containing THC or modify e-liquids; using any type of e-cigarette is unsafe; nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing brain; and e-cigarettes should not be used by youth or young adults. In light of this report, it is critical to better describe who young e-cigarette users are, which e-liquids they use and the reasons for their choices. In addition, few studies assess all sources of nicotine used by e-cigarette users to determine whether poly-nicotine use relates to nicotine dependence or difficulty quitting.

The objectives of a recent NDIT study were to describe young adult e-cigarette users by: (i) type of e-liquids vaped in the past year (i.e., with nicotine, without nicotine, with cannabis); (ii) poly-nicotine use (i.e., concurrent use of multiple nicotine-containing substances); (iii) nicotine dependence symptoms; and (iv) attempts to quit
conventional cigarettes using e-cigarettes.

We found that, at age 30:

  • 20% of NDIT participants reported past-year e-cigarette use.

  • Overall, 55% of e-cigarette users had used cannabis- containing e-liquid in the past year (32% vaped cannabis e-liquids exclusively); 49% used nicotine-containing e-liquid (24% vaped nicotine e-liquids only); and 39% used e-liquids without nicotine (9% vaped e-liquids without nicotine exclusively).

  • 84% used other nicotine-containing products including combustible cigarettes (74%)

  • 62% reported nicotine dependence symptoms

  • 25% tried to quit combustible cigarettes using e-cigarettes in the past-year, but only 15% found them helpful.


We concluded that many young adults use e-cigarettes to vape cannabis, that few young adults use e-cigarettes for cessation and that most use other nicotine-containing products including combustible cigarettes.

Because the rising popularity of e-cigarettes threatens tobacco control achievements, monitoring trends in who
uses which e-liquids and the reasons for that choice is critical in terms of understanding the evolving e-cigarette market and developing programs and policy that minimize any negative impacts on health.

Early Predictors of Daily Cannabis Use in Young Adults

Cannabis is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances in North America, and young adults ages 18-24 have the highest prevalence of use. Daily cannabis use can lead to dependence, as well as numerous social, physical and mental health issues.

Using NDIT data, we identified early risk factors (at age 12) for daily cannabis use at age 20. At age 20, 44% of NDIT participants reported using cannabis in the past year, and 10% were using it daily. Our results demonstrated that the risk of daily cannabis use in young adults can be identified as early as Grade 7. Older age, male sex, higher levels of family and other stress, use of alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products, parent(s), sibling(s) and friend(s) smoking cigarettes, higher BMI, higher impulsivity and novelty-seeking, and lower self-esteem increased the odds of daily cannabis use.


February 10, 2020

The NDIT team was recently invited by the Quebec Ministry to participate to the first provincial consultations on screen time and its possible effects on the health of young people. The team submitted a brief entitled: Screen Time in adolescents and Young Adults: Recent Results from Quebec-based Longitudinal Research. Teodora Riglea presented the results at the forum.

For more information, click here.

September, 2015 

Jennifer O'Loughlin and Erika Dugas  participated in the Quebec Parliamentary Commission hearings on Bill 44 (An Act to bolster tobacco control).


2018: Pediatrics interview with Drs Sylvestre and Hanusaik, for a segment available on their website to discuss the article “A Tool to Identify Adolescents at Risk of Cigarette Smoking Initiation” 

2017: The NDIT study and Jennifer O’Loughlin included in the report CIHR Celebrates Canada 150

2016: The US Surgeon General's Report (released in Dec 2016) on e-cigarettes cited the NDIT study.

2016: Media coverage and interviews for the article Relationships Between Current and Past Binge Drinking and Systolic Blood Pressure in Young Adults (e.g., Radio-Canada, Le Devoir, La Presse, L`Actualité, CBC news, Montreal Gazette, Concordia)

2015: NDIT included in the CCSRI Research Impact Report.

2014: Contacted by the American Association for Cancer Research press, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Radio-Canada, Radio Centre-Ville, L'actualité pharmaceutique, Info-tabac, and the Science Media Center of Canada for the predictors of the occurrence of smoking discontinuation in novice adolescent smokers paper (also showcased on Medical News Today, University Herald, Global News, Medical Xpress, Counsel & Heal, and UdeM Forum journal, CBC)

2010: NDIT’s Pediatrics waterpipe use publication was cited in the 2012 US Surgeon General Report and received international press coverage by, amongst others, Radio-Canada, Reuters, and the New York Times.

in the news

Pediatrics interview with Drs Sylvestre and Hanusaik, for a segment available on their website to discuss the article “A Tool to Identify Adolescents at Risk of Cigarette Smoking Initiation”



NDIT data are presented to researchers and students from around the world working in public health, medicine, epidemiology, psychology and many other disciplines.


In the most recent Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) meeting, Erika and Marie-Pierre presented six NDIT projects at the 19th annual SRNT Europe conference in Oslo (Norway) (September 2019). Erika presented work on: (1) e-cigarettes; (2) smoking cessation in young adults; and (3) poly-nicotine use while quitting cigarettes. Marie-Pierre presented: (4) a systematic review of cigarette smoking trajectories in adolescents; (5) smoking and nicotine dependence trajectories in youth; and (6) the role of friends who smoke in the association between depressive symptoms and cigarette smoking.


To date, the NDIT team has participated in:

•X national presentations

•X international presentations

•X invited presentations