Teenagers are more likely to try traditional tobacco products if they try e-cigarettes, a new study suggests. Researchers from the University of Southern California surveyed more than 2,500 Los Angeles-area 9th graders at the start of highschool, 6 months later, and again at the start of 10th grade. Out of the 200 students who said tried e-cigarettes, 31 percent reported trying a traditional tobacco product in the past six months compared to only 8 percent of the students who said they never tried vaping tried traditional tobacco products. At one-year follow-up, 25 percent of teenagers who said they tried vaping reported smoking tobacco in the past six months compared to 9 percent of kids who did not vape.
The findings support the need to regulate e-cigarettes, the authors said. They noted, however, that the study does not definitively show that use of e-cigarettes causes teens to smoke. Adam Leventhal of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, who led the study, said “While we cannot concluded that e-cigarette use directly leads to smoking, this research raises concerns that recent increases in youth e-cigarette use could ultimately perpetuate the epidemic of smoking-related illness,” according to NBC News.
Leventhal pointed out that other factors could be at play, stating that “Adolescents who enjoy the experience of inhaling nicotine via e-cigarettes could be more apt to experiment with other nicotine products, including smokeable tobacco,”
The study also shows that teens are trying e-cigarettes more often than traditional tobacco products. Dr. Nancy Rigotti of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School wrote in a commentary, “There is ample evidence that e-cigarettes are marketed in ways that appeal to children and adolescents. Prompt, effective action is needed to protect youth and reduce the demand for e-cigarettes by nonsmokers of all ages,”
Matthew Myers, presidents of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the study “provides troubling new evidence that use of electronic cigarettes by youth who had not previously smoked could lead to use of cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products,”