The association between problematic alcohol use, risk perceptions, and e-cigarette use

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Use of e-cigarettes among college students has escalated, in part due to the perception that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes and have other benefits such as circumventing smoking bans. College students also drink more heavily than other age groups, and e-cigarettes are associated with alcohol, especially among students who engage in problematic drinking. The present study sought to determine if an interaction between problematic alcohol use and increased perceptions of benefits and decreased perceptions of risks of e-cigarettes would predict whether participants had ever used an e-cigarette. The present study included 1,133 undergraduate college students surveyed between November 2014 - November 2016. Participants were primarily Caucasian (82.3%) and female (78.1%). Participants completed questionnaires regarding demographics, smoking status/history, and expectancies. Higher levels of problematic drinking and higher perceived benefits of e-cigarette use were both associated with having tried e-cigarettes. This relationship was significant even when controlling for several covariates such as cigarettes smoking status. However, there was not a significant interaction between problematic alcohol use and perceived benefits or risks of e-cigarettes. There was also no relationship between risk perceptions of e-cigarettes and e-cigarettes use. Both problematic alcohol use and perception of benefits of e-cigarettes were associated with having tried an e-cigarette. This finding is problematic as the use of e-cigarettes may influence further engagement in risky behaviors including problematic drinking or transitioning to regular cigarette use. Thus, it is important to develop interventions to help college students develop more accurate risk perceptions about e-cigarettes.

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The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse

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