Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas H. Kelly


Little is known about how electronic cigarette (EC) users manipulate device parameters, what factors drive their use, and how non-nicotine ingredients influence the stimulus effects of EC aerosols. The ingredients propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG) serve as the base for virtually all electronic cigarette liquids, and information on how they affect the using experience would provide important groundwork for the study of other ingredients. In this dissertation, results from a survey and laboratory study focused on the stimulus effects of ECs, and the influence of PG and VG, will be discussed. A total of 522 regular EC users completed a survey comprised of an electronic cigarette dependence questionnaire, questions on tobacco and electronic cigarette use, and device and liquid preferences. This was followed by a laboratory study with sixteen electronic cigarette users completing five test days (one practice and four assessment days). In the laboratory study, following one hour of nicotine deprivation, two sampling puffs from liquid formulations containing 100/0, 75/25, 50/50, 25/75, and 0/100% PG/VG concentrations were administered in random order during five assessments, each separated by 20 min. Primary outcome measures were self-reported stimulus characteristics and breakpoint on a multiple-choice procedure. Survey results indicated that ability to change device voltage, and level of resistance, was significantly associated with level of nicotine dependence, as was amount of liquid consumed, nicotine concentration, and milligrams of nicotine used per week. Participants also rated 'good taste' as the most important consideration when purchasing and using liquids, and PG was associated with undesirable effects and VG with desirable effects. Laboratory results indicated that greater VG content was associated with greater reports of visibility of the exhalant (i.e. “cloud”). Liquids with mixtures of PG or VG were associated with conventional cigarette smoking sensations and greater reductions of systolic blood pressure compared to formulations with only PG or VG. There was no significant effect of liquid formulation on the multiple-choice procedure, but puffs were rarely chosen over even the smallest monetary option ($0.05), suggesting minimal reinforcing efficacy. In conclusion, survey data indicate that a wide range device parameter settings and liquid ingredients are preferred by daily e-cigarette users, and that individuals with greater nicotine dependence favor voltage control devices, and lower resistance heating elements. Survey data also indicated that taste is a key factor for EC liquid selection, and relative concentrations of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin may have a significant impact on the reinforcing effects of liquids. In contrast, laboratory data suggests that PG or VG do not significantly impact the abuse liability of EC liquids, though reinforcing effects of these ingredients was unclear in the laboratory study.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)