A new study suggests that some teens who never would have smoked cigarettes are now vaping, debunking the popular belief that electronic cigarettes are merely a substitute for cigarettes.
Nicotine experimentation could become nicotine addiction for youth who never used any other tobacco products, USC study suggests. The study was of 5,490 high school juniors and seniors showing tobacco use among teens in Southern California is on the rise.
E-cigarettes, which entered the U.S. market in 2007, vaporize liquids that may or may not contain nicotine. In 2011, about 1.5% of high schoolers had vaped in the past 30 days, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Four years later, that number jumped to 16%! This is alarming because in 2004, before e-cigarettes were available, just 9% of surveyed teens in reported that they had smoked cigarettes.
The combined e-cigarette and cigarette use in 2014 far exceeded what would have been expected if teens were simply substituting cigarettes with e-cigarettes. The data suggest that at least some of the teens who are vaping would not have smoked cigarettes. And this is in accordance with statistics from The National Youth Tobacco Survey, which reported a long-term decline in teen smoking rates followed by a leveling off between 2014 and 2015.
“Because e-cigarettes are perceived as less harmful and less dangerous than combustible cigarettes, another concern is that teens may be introduced to nicotine use via e-cigarettes,” Barrington-Trimis said. “In California, where smoking rates are among the lowest in the country, the increase in vaping, possibly followed by increases in smoking, could erode the progress that has been made over the last several decades in tobacco control.”
In fact, older teens who experiment with electronic cigarettes are 6 times more likely to try regular cigarettes within about a year when compared to those who have never vaped, reported Barrington-Trimis and her USC colleagues in a study published last month in Pediatrics.
“E-cigarettes may be recruiting a new group of kids to tobacco use,” Barrington-Trimis said. “E-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes for adults who are transitioning from smoking to vaping, but for youth who have never used any other tobacco products, nicotine experimentation could become nicotine addiction.”