Prospective predictors of electronic nicotine delivery system initiation in tobacco naive young adults: A machine learning approach

Nkiruka C. Atuegwu, Eric M. Mortensen, Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Reinhard C. Laubenbacher, Mark D. Litt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is increasing among young adults. However, there are few studies regarding predictors of ENDS initiation in tobacco-naive young adults. Identifying the risk and protective factors of ENDS initiation that are specific to tobacco-naive young adults will enable the creation of targeted policies and prevention programs. This study used machine learning (ML) to create predictive models, identify risk and protective factors for ENDS initiation for tobacco-naive young adults, and the relationship between these predictors and the prediction of ENDS initiation. We used nationally representative data of tobacco-naive young adults in the U.S drawn from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) longitudinal cohort survey. Respondents were young adults (18–24 years) who had never used any tobacco products in Wave 4 and who completed Waves 4 and 5 interviews. ML techniques were used to create models and determine predictors at 1-year follow-up from Wave 4 data. Among the 2,746 tobacco-naive young adults at baseline, 309 initiated ENDS use at 1-year follow-up. The top five prospective predictors of ENDS initiation were susceptibility to ENDS, increased days of physical exercise specifically designed to strengthen muscles, frequency of social media use, marijuana use and susceptibility to cigarettes. This study identified previously unreported and emerging predictors of ENDS initiation that warrant further investigation and provided comprehensive information on the predictors of ENDS initiation. Furthermore, this study showed that ML is a promising technique that can aid ENDS monitoring and prevention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102148
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • E-cigarette
  • ENDS
  • Electronic nicotine delivery systems
  • Machine learning
  • Never tobacco users
  • PATH
  • Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health survey
  • Prospective predictors
  • Tobacco naïve
  • Vaping
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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