E-cigarettes, that are meant to help regular smokers kick the butt, are more likely to push teenagers towards tobacco products within a year, a new study warned today.
Researchers from University of Hawaii and University of Connecticut quizzed 2,338 teens, all of whom resided in Hawaii, at seven high schools in 2013 and then again a year later, about their vaping and smoking activities.
The teens, who in 2013 were 9th and 10th graders with an average age of just under 15 years, were asked in depth about the frequency of their e-cigarette and tobacco use, from never; through a few times a year; right up to daily, at both time points.
Factors known to influence uptake of smoking, such as home environment, parental educational attainment, and degree of rebelliousness were also assessed by the survey.
The results showed that those teens who had used e-cigarettes in 2013 were almost three times more likely to have started smoking a year later than those who had not vaped at the time of the first survey.
Just under a third (31 per cent) of the sample, overall, had used e-cigarettes by 2013, rising to just under four out of 10 (38 per cent) by 2014, researchers said.
Some 15 per cent had smoked at least one cigarette in 2013, rising to around one in five (21 per cent) by the following year.
Most (98 per cent) of those quizzed in the first wave of the survey had heard of e-cigarettes, and over two thirds (68 per cent) considered them to be healthier than smoking.
Among non-users of e-cigarettes and tobacco, one in 10 had tried e-cigarettes by the second wave, while 2 per cent had experimented with cigarettes, and fewer than one in 20 (4 per cent) had tried both.
Teens with greater levels of family support and education were less likely to make the transition from non-user of either e-cigarettes or tobacco to use of both by 2014.
A supplementary analysis showed that any level of e-cigarette use in 2013 was associated with smoking once or twice, or three or four times, by 2014. Regular smoking - defined as yearly or monthly - was only associated with higher levels of e-cigarette use in 2013.
E-cigarette use among initial smokers was not linked with a reduction over time in their smoking frequency. “This suggests that e-cigarette use among adolescents is not without behavioural costs,” researchers warned.
The study has been released amid a global debate whether e-cigarettes are safe or even useful as a smoking cessation aid. The findings were published in the journal Tobacco Control.