High school teenagers who use e-cigarettes are more than 4 times more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes and other tobacco products, reports a study published Aug. 18 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. University of Southern California researchers collected data from over 2,500 ninth-graders to investigate the link between e-cigarettes and smoking, according to the study. Researcher Adam M. Leventhal, Ph.D., points out that although e-cigarettes initially appealed to adult smokers as a smoking alternative, many teens use them for recreational purposes.
The use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students increased substantially over the period of 2011 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that 2.4 million youths use e-cigarettes. In addition, 1.6 million children smoke hookahs. In 2014, “one in four high school students and one in 13 middle school students used one or more tobacco products. …”
Leventhal and colleagues attribute e-cigarette use by teens to several factors including:
- Beliefs by teens that e-cigarettes are not harmful.
- Flavored e-cigarettes that appeal to teens.
- Ease of getting e-cigarettes.
In addition, researchers said that the increased propensity to try e-cigarettes during adolescence might arise from the stage of teens’ brain development during that time.
Ninth-graders from ten public high schools in Los Angeles took part in the study. At the start of the research, none of these students smoked tobacco products. The students completed surveys about their smoking habits at the start of the research and then six and 12 months later. The survey asked the students if they used tobacco products during the preceding six months.
“While teen tobacco use has fallen in recent years, this study confirms that we should continue to vigilantly watch teen smoking patterns,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Parents and teens should recognize that although e-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic effects of regular cigarettes, they do carry a risk of addiction.” Volka is the director of National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).
More information on e-cigarettes is available from NIDA. The CDC and the America Cancer Society have information for parents about smoking prevention.
The research paper is called the Association of Electronic Cigarette Use With Initiation of Combustible Tobacco Product Smoking in Early Adolescence.