Associations of childhood executive control with adolescent cigarette and E-cigarette use: Tests of moderation by poverty level

W. Alex Mason, Irina Patwardhan, Charles B. Fleming, Amy L. Stevens, Tiffany D. James, Jennifer Mize Nelson, Kimberly Andrews Espy, Timothy D. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescent cigarette smoking has continued to decline, whereas electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use has increased dramatically among youth. Nicotine use in any form, even at low levels, during adolescence can have adverse consequences, particularly for low-income individuals. To elucidate potential early intervention targets, this study examined childhood executive control (EC), a set of cognitive processes for directing attention and behavior, in relation to adolescent cigarette and e-cigarette onset, testing for differential prediction by poverty level. Method: Participants were 313 children (51% female, 64% European American) recruited in a small city in the Midwestern United States beginning in 2006 and then followed into adolescence between ages 14 and 16 years. EC was measured in the laboratory with performance-based tasks when children were age 5 years, 3 months. Self-reports of cigarette onset and e-cigarette onset were obtained in adolescence (Mage = 15.65 years). Overall, 24% of the sample was at or below the poverty line. Results: Cigarette onset was higher in the poverty group (17%) than in the non-poverty (8%) group, but e-cigarette onset did not differ by poverty level (36% poverty versus 38% non-poverty). Multiple group structural equation modeling revealed a statistically significant group difference such that EC ability was a significant negative predictor of e-cigarette onset for poverty but not for non-poverty youth. A similar group difference was evident as a trend for cigarette onset. Conclusions: Because EC has been shown to be modifiable, early interventions to improve EC for children living in poverty might help prevent adolescent e-cigarette onset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106923
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Adolescence
  • Cigarette smoking
  • E-cigarette use
  • Executive control
  • Poverty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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