Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alison Breland, Ph.D.


Electronic cigarettes have grown in popularity across the U.S. and concerns have been raised about their abuse liability. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate and compare the abuse liability of an electronic cigarette with and without nicotine to a nicotine inhaler (the Nicotrol inhaler) and participants’ own brand of cigarettes. A total of 24 smokers attended four sessions in which the abuse liability of each product was examined using the Multiple-Choice Procedure (MCP), nicotine delivery, nicotine abstinence symptom suppression, and subjective reinforcing effects. Results revealed that the nicotine containing and non-nicotine containing electronic cigarette had a higher reinforcing efficacy on the MCP than the nicotine inhaler, but on average had a lower reinforcing efficacy than participants own brand of cigarettes. The nicotine containing electronic cigarette delivered nicotine to participants in amounts that did not differ significantly from participants’ own brand of cigarettes. The electronic cigarette with nicotine reduced nicotine abstinence symptoms to a greater degree than the electronic cigarette without nicotine, and both electronic cigarettes were rated as subjectively more reinforcing than the inhaler but less reinforcing than participants’ own brand of cigarettes. In sum, the results from this study suggest that the electronic cigarette examined had a moderate level of abuse liability that was higher than an FDA-approved nicotine inhaler but lower than traditional cigarettes. Furthermore, findings also suggest that electronic cigarette abuse liability may extend beyond factors related to nicotine delivery.


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