Teenagers who use e-cigarettes more likely to start smoking, study finds

2 October 2018:

By Erin Dirkin

Source: The Guardian

Adolescents who start vaping are also more likely use e-cigarettes and cigarettes more frequently, according to Rand Corporation

Teens who use electronic cigarettes are more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes – and they are likely to use both products more often over time, a new study found.

The Rand Corporation study looked at more than 2,000 youths in California, starting when they were teenagers and continuing until they were young adults.

The researchers found that youth who reported vaping were more likely to also report smoking cigarettes.

When they were surveyed around age 17, more of the teens said they used e-cigarettes in the last month – 8% – than regular cigarettes, at 6%. By around age 19, 9% of the young adults surveyed were using e-cigarettes, but cigarette smoking had jumped to 12%.

“Not only are adolescents who start vaping more likely to start smoking in the future, but they’re also likely to go on and use e-cigarettes and cigarettes more frequently,” said Michael Dunbar, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at Rand.

“Our work provides more evidence that young people who use e-cigarettes progress to smoking cigarettes in the future,” he said. “This study also suggests that teens don’t substitute vaping products for cigarettes. Instead, they go on to use both products more frequently as they get older.”

It’s the latest research to suggest a link for young people between electronic cigarettes and smoking the more dangerous, traditional tobacco-based variety.

For adults who already smoke, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a safer alternative to help them quit.

At the same time, studies have suggested that for kids who have never smoked, picking up one of the vaping devices makes it more likely they will become smokers in the future, leading to debate over the best way to regulate the devices. There is little conclusive research about the health effects of e-cigarettes themselves.

The US Food and Drug Administration announced last month it would consider a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in response to what it warned is an “epidemic” of young people using the devices and getting hooked on nicotine.

E-cigarette makers have rolled out products like Juul, a device that looks like a thumb drive and is popular with teens.

“For young people, using these products may actually lead to more harm in the long run,” Dunbar said. “This highlights the importance of taking steps to prevent youth from vaping in the first place. One way to do this could be to limit e-cigarette and other tobacco advertising in kid-accessible spaces.”

The study found that young people who use e-cigarettes puff on them more over time.

Of those who use the devices, 9% said they used one at least 20 days a month when they were surveyed as teens. By young adulthood, more than a quarter– 26% – were vaping 20 or more days a month.

The same jump was seen for regular cigarettes. Among users, the proportion saying they smoked 20 days a month went up from 8% to 14%.

The FDA says it will soon release data that shows a “substantial increase” in youth vaping this year compared with 2017.

The agency issued 12 warning letters to companies they accused of using deceptive marketing labels on e-liquids, and is threatening to yank flavored products off the shelves if companies don’t do more to prevent teens from getting their hands on them.

Buyers must be 18 in most states, and 21 in some, to legally purchase e-cigarettes.