Teenagers Using E-Cigarettes More Likely to Become Users of Combustible Tobacco: US Study

Teenager E-Cigarette

A recent study conducted by Adam Leventhal from Keck Medical School of the University of Southern California and his team, reported that teenagers using e-cigarettes are more likely to become users of combustible tobacco.

E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are devices that can give a feeling of smoking by delivering nicotine-containing aerosol (which is a heated combination of propylene glycol, water and glycerin). While these devices are assumed to be less harmful than conventional smoking, this study revealed that the users of e-cigarettes are more likely to switch to traditional smoking options such as hookah, cigarettes and cigars.

The study involved tracking 2,530 high school children (9th graders) from ten public schools in Los Angeles who never used combustible tobacco initially, when the study started in 2013. The follow-up assessments were done after six months (spring 2014) and again after 12 months (autumn 2014). At each of these assessments, some students admitted switching to combustible tobacco in the self-assessed surveys.

The numbers were as follows: Out of 222 students who were using e-cigarettes initially, at the 6-month assessment, 31% reported use of traditional smoking options as against 8% of students who were not on e-cigarettes at the start of the study. At the 12-month assessment stage, 25% of e-cigarette users reported starting off on tobacco-based smoking as against 9% of e-cigarette non-users.

These outcomes proved that using e-cigarettes or ‘vaping’ increases the risk of starting off on combustible tobacco use during adolescence which in turn could lead to smoking related health risks which could reach epidemic levels, warned the report. While this study does not have any conclusive evidence linking vaping to traditional tobacco use, it definitely throws light on the increased possibility of such a situation.

Many experts opined that 14-year-old children need not use any product. Hence, this study reiterates the need for appropriate action that protects young children and decreases the demand for e-cigarettes, commented Dr Nancy Rigotti from Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, opined that this study reiterates the fact that we need to be vigilant of teen smoking patterns considering its ill-effects and addictive capabilities.

An interesting statistic regarding smoking is that e-cigarettes’ usage among American adolescents increased to 13.4% in 2014 from 4.5% in 2013, as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. During the same period traditional cigarette usage decreased from 12.7% to 9.2%.

UK Health Officials Advocate Prescription of E-cigarettes for Smokers to Quit the Habit

Health officials in the UK advocated the prescription of e-cigarettes to enable smokers to quit the habit.

The study which was commissioned and authorized by Public Health England found ‘vaping’ E-cigarettes or puffing an electronic cigarette was an effective way to push smokers to kick the habit. The battery-powered E-cigarettes were reportedly 95% safer than conventional tobacco-filled cigarettes and could be a ‘game changer’ in the realm of public health in the country, said Professor Ann McNeill from King’s College London who co-authored the government-backed study.

Smoking is a deadly killer and the main cause of preventable fatalities, accounting for more than 80,000 deaths annually in the UK and vaping could be of great help to deter this onslaught. A little less than one out of every 5 people in the UK smokes. Smoking is a dangerous killer and quitting the habit is the best thing to happen for any smoker, said the director of health and well-being in PHE, Kevin Fenton.

Although e-cigarettes are not completely risk free from the negative effects of nicotine, in comparison to the effects of traditional cigarettes, the risk is a mere fraction. Only 2.6 million out of the 8 million smokers in the UK take the vaping route. It is yet to gain popularity, mainly because the devices are not licensed either by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or by the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This means the doctors cannot prescribe nor recommend the devices for the smokers.

The PHE-commissioned study found that e-cigarettes do not cause as much harm as conventional cigarettes, which means that if smokers can switch to vaping from puffing, the risks associated with smoking is almost totally removed. So, say the officials from PHE, it is imperative that e-cigarettes be made available on NHS despite conflicting reports about their safety. If all smokers switched to e-cigarettes, about 75,000 lives could be saved annually, claimed the PHE report. The PHE’s goal is to ensure the first non-smoking generation is reached by the year 2025.

Again, quite contrary to public perception, there is no evidence to show that e-cigarettes were the first step in picking up the smoking habit by non-smokers and children. However, another very recent study conducted in the US for high school students in California found that the children and non-smokers who started off with e-cigarettes were more likely to try the traditional form of smoking too.