A new study reports that teenagers who start with e-cigarettes may move on to regular cigarettes within a year. Published in the JAMA Pediatrics, the study followed over 650 young adults who had smoked an e-cigarette and followed up with them a year later. The study was conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The study found, specifically, that students who had tried an e-cigarette by the time they started ninth grade were more likely to try a traditional cigarette within the next year. Six months after being surveyed, over 30 percent of teens who had used an e-cigarette smoked a regular cigarette compared to the 8.1 percent who had never tried an e-cigarette. One year later, 25.2 percent of the e-cigarette users had tried regular cigarettes compared to 9.3 percent who hadn’t.
NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., said, “While teen tobacco use has fallen in recent years, this study confirms that we should continue to vigilantly watch teen smoking patterns.”
The use of e-cigarettes has increased significantly over the past few years. A recent government report noted that their use among middle and high school students tripled in just one year, from 2013 to 2014.
After years of anti-smoking campaigns that have proven to be successful, government officials are afraid that the popularity of e-cigarettes is going to reverse the strides they’ve made.
E-cigarettes are often seen as less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes because a user does not inhale smoke. The nicotine is inhaled through a process called vaping, where the tobacco solution is heated until it produces a vapor the user inhales. The user is still inhaling nicotine, which is addictive. Adolescent brains are still developing so they are more susceptible to developing an addiction.
"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,” said Volkow.
E-cigarettes can be more appealing to teenagers because of the variety of models of e-cigarettes and the different flavors of juice available. They also don’t produce smoke or leave a lingering smell, so it can be easier to hide.
E-cigarettes were originally produced by private companies, but big tobacco companies have recently begun manufacturing their own versions because of their increasing popularity.
This is the first study that found a link indicating that the use of e-cigarettes among high school students leads to smoking regular cigarettes. While the data shows that students are more likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes after trying an e-cigarette, the relatively small sample means that more research will need to be done.
The survey took place among 10 high schools in Los Angeles with a diverse demographic. It focused on 2,530 students who initially reported never using tobacco, then followed up with them after six months and 12 months. Researchers asked about e-cigarettes, traditional cigarettes, cigars, hookah water pipes and blunts.
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