First tobacco cigarettes and now electronic cigarettes! Smoking has increased in popularity among teens over the last several years. Now, researchers have found a strong association between e-cigarette use and onset of tobacco cigarette smoking among teen smokers.
Teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start puffing the real tobacco cigarettes a year later, found researchers at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
To determine whether vaping among teenagers led them to take up smoking or helped them to quit, researchers carried out a survey involving 2,338 students, primarily 9th and 10th graders, from six high schools in the area.
The surveyors asked them a series of questions about their smoking habits as well as other factors known to predict drug use, such as parental support and their rebelliousness and willingness to experience new things.
Questions asked during the survey were like: Whether they had ever smoked electronic or conventional tobacco cigarettes? Those who answered yes, were then asked how frequently they did so- only once or twice, a handful of times, monthly, weekly or daily.
At the beginning of survey, 15 percent of the survey-takers admitted to tobacco use and 31 percent to e-cigarettes and a year later, it jumped to 21 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
After a year of follow-up, the surveyors, headed by by Thomas Wills, a cancer-prevention expert at the UH Cancer Center’s Prevention and Control Program, found that those who admitted to using battery-powered cigarettes (e-cigs) were more susceptible to real tobacco smoking than those who had never used electronic cigarettes.
“We found a sample of high school students over one year and the question was looking at the people who initially were non-smokers. Did using e-cigarettes make any difference in what happened? We followed the same people a year later and the finding was that people who used e-cigarettes were more likely to start smoking cigarettes a year later,” said Dr. Wills.
In fact, students who vaped at least once were three times more likely to try tobacco smoking a year later than those who never indulged in vaping at all.
Further research showed that for people who never vaped, their probability of smoking traditional cigarettes was 5 percent, and it was 14 percent if they had vaped at least once. For regular e-cigarette smokers, the probability of regular tobacco smoking increased to 19 percent.
“The message is that e-cigarettes aren’t neutral. They have a risk-promoting effect for smoking cigarettes,” Wills said.
Surprisingly, researchers did not find any evidence that e-cigs helped people quit smoking, despite a common belief that e-cigarette use helps smokers kick the butt.
The survey findings “provide support for the hypothesis that e-cigarette use may promote initiation of smoking,” the authors wrote. “These findings should be considered for policy discussions about the availability of e-cigarettes to adolescents.”
The survey results are published in the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control.