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E-Cigarette Use Has Tripled Among Teens and Young Adults

Sep 15, 2015

By Dean George

The use of electronic cigarettes has tripled between 2013 and 2014 among America’s teenagers and young adults, and two recent studies warn that “e-cigs” have become a gateway for youth to use traditional tobacco products.

Both studies conclude that more than one-third of young people who tried the battery powered “e-cigs” began smoking traditional cigarettes within a year, even though they claimed they had never been interested in smoking.

“Only 10 percent of young people who had never used e-cigarettes eventually became smokers,” researchers reported in the September 8th online issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

"Adolescents who enjoy the experience of inhaling nicotine via e-cigarettes could be more apt to experiment with other nicotine products, including smokeable tobacco," said lead study author Adam Leventhal of the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

Leventhal’s team surveyed more than 2,500 Los Angeles-area 9th graders who said they had never used tobacco products when they started high school. The study followed up with them six months later and once more at the start of 10th grade.

Nearly one-third of the 200 kids who had tried e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” tried a traditional tobacco product six months later.

“This study indicates that e-cigarettes are introducing many kids to use of and possible addiction to nicotine,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It also adds to concerns that e-cigarettes could serve as a gateway to use of other tobacco products, including regular cigarettes.”

As previously reported in Dental Wire, e-cigarettes look like conventional cigarettes but burn a nicotine-laced heated mist of water, glycerin and propylene glycol that converts into a vapor when inhaled. The battery powered devices allow users to enjoy nicotine at lower levels than regular cigarettes.

Dr. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, New Hampshire, calls e-cigarettes “a training-wheels version” of smoking.

“They're practicing all of the parts of the behavior except lighting up that they would need to use a cigarette," he said. “The real concern is that if it (e-cigarettes) does indeed move these adolescents in the direction of smoking cigarettes, it’s going to turn around the two-decade-long decline in teen smoking,” Dr. Sargent said.

Sargent was the senior author of the second study which involved a national sample of nearly 700 teens and young adults, aged 16 to 26. Results were based on a baseline survey and a follow-up survey one year later. Study results showed that e-cigarette use among high school kids leapt from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Only 16 of 694 participants had tried an e-cigarette at the time of the first survey, but of those 16, 38 percent of the baseline users were smoking traditional cigarettes a year later.

The problem is that as young users become more heavily addicted to the nicotine found in e-cigarettes they are probably going to turn to some form of traditional tobacco product.

"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 Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which helped pay for the study.

Forty-six states currently prohibit sales of e-cigarettes or vaping tobacco products to minors, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced new rules September 14, that would ban such sales statewide beginning September 25.

The U.S. National Park Service has also announced a nationwide ban in all parks where traditional cigarettes are already banned.

As previously written in this space, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t currently regulate the e-cigarette industry, but they have issued proposed rules that would grant them that authority and are reportedly in the process of developing national regulations.

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Copyright 2015, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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