Kyle Brown

Dr Kyle Brown (BSc, PhD, SFHEA)
Senior Lecturer in Applied Psychology
Chair of the BLSS Faculty Academic Ethics Committee

Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences
Birmingham City University

An examination of compensatory puffing and variation in mood during naturalistic e-cigarette use

Aims: Examination of topography, the way in which individuals inhale e-cigarette vapour has revealed a phenomenon referred to as compensatory puffing, where users increase their rate and duration of inhalation to compensate for the reduced pharmacological effects of e-liquids with low levels of nicotine. Data from laboratory-based randomised controlled trials has provided consistent evidence for this phenomenon. The present study sought to determine whether compensatory puffing occurs in naturalistic settings

Methods: A quasi-experiment with 18 experienced e-cigarette users using their normal e-liquids of varying strengths (<8mg, 9 – 16mg and >17mg) with use of a 1.8-Ω third generation e-cigarette tank over the course of a seven days. These Bluetooth enabled devices recorded the number of times users puffed on the e-cigarette each day. Users were also required to complete measures of dependent (Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence), craving and withdrawal (Mood and Physical Symptoms Scale) each day.

Results: Puff count was demonstrated to be consistent across each of the seven days. There was evidence for compensatory puffing across the study period, as indicated by an inverse relationship between puff e-liquid strength and puff count. Withdrawal and craving were positively related to puff count.

Conclusions: These naturalistic data support laboratory-based findings on compensatory puffing. Further evidence is needed to ascertain whether there is a causal relationship between nicotine strength and puff count that is mediated by craving and withdrawal symptoms.


Mr Ian Perry-Griffiths, BSc (Hons) Department of Psychology, Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK

Conflicts of interest:

No conflict of interest.

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