Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Melissa Blank

Committee Member

Kevin Larkin

Committee Member

Kris Martens


A primary public health concern associated with the use of electronic cigarettes (ECIGS) has been the risk of product initiation by vulnerable young adults who are largely naïve to tobacco. The use of ECIGs among such individuals may be influenced by the wide variety of sweet flavored liquids available for purchase. Previous work suggests that one flavor, menthol, increases the likelihood of abuse of cigarettes. Thus, the United States Food and Drug Administration has requested input from the research community regarding the abuse liability of flavored ECIGs in order to inform future product regulation. Using a double-blind, within-subject study design, 30 young adults (aged 18-24 years, M = 19.43, 63.3% female, 83.3% Caucasian) who are largely tobacco-naïve experienced two sessions that differed by the flavor of ECIG liquid used: tobacco or fruit (choice of fruit medley or mango). Within each session, participants used the flavor assigned ECIG during two separate puffing bouts and rated product effects via subjective questionnaires (e.g., nicotine delivery, product acceptability) pre- and post-bouts. Participants also rated subjective product appeal and engaged in both a progressive ratio and probability-based purchase task to assess willingness to work for and spend money on each flavor of ECIG. Smoking topography (i.e., puff number, duration, and inter-puff interval) was also analyzed. Heart rate and subjective measures of nicotine delivery (e.g., lightheadedness, nausea, headache) were significantly higher post- bout compared to pre-bout, indicating nicotine delivery during puffing bouts. However, few significant effects of flavor emerged across subjective, physiological, behavioral economic, or puffing topography outcomes. Recruited participants had very low levels of lifetime ECIG use (M = 12.37 uses; range = 3 - 50 uses) and reported not enjoying ECIG use. Rather, the majority of participants reported social motivations as a primary reason for product use. While this study is the first to experimentally assess abuse liability of flavor among a sample of tobacco naïve young adults, results suggest that there may be factors other than flavor which motivate initial product use and susceptibility among naïve users with low lifetime use.