The impact of electronic cigarettes (ECs) on nicotine use is hotly debated: some fear that ECs are a ‘catalyst’ to conventional smoking, while others argue that they divert adolescents from the more harmful product.

This study used simulation modeling to evaluate the plausibility of catalyst and diversion hypotheses against real‐world data.

A simulation model represented life‐time exclusive EC use, exclusive conventional smoking and dual use as separate subpopulations. The ‘catalyst’ effect was modeled as EC use increasing dual use initiation (i.e. EC users also start smoking). The ‘diversion’ effect was modeled as EC use decreasing exclusive cigarette initiation. The model was calibrated using data from the US National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). The plausibility of each scenario was evaluated by comparing simulated trends with NYTS data. This is the first study, to our knowledge, to estimate the magnitude of a diversion effect through simulation.

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Arielle S. Selya Floe Foxon – Addiction – January 4, 2021.

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