Teenagers who try e-cigarettes and other electronic vaping devices are six times more likely to take up smoking cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products, according to a new University of Southern California study.
The USC researchers published their findings in the journal Pediatrics, raising a red flag about the perceived effectiveness of e-cigarettes in serving as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking.
“We’re concerned that kids who experiment with e-cigarettes may be moving on to other types of tobacco products, like combustible cigarettes, which are arguably a lot more dangerous,” said researcher and lead author Jessica Barrington-Trimis.
The study looked at about 300 Southern California high school students, about half of whom reported in 2014 that they vaped or at least had tried vaping. About 40 percent of those students reported a year later that they had also smoked regular cigarettes – a 30-percent increase over the year before.
After adjusting the numbers for gender, ethnicity, grade, and parental education, the researchers calculated that the teens who tried e-cigarettes were six times more likely to take up smoking than those who had never tried e-cigarettes.
Figures also showed that teens who said on the first survey that they had no intention to smoke had a risk of turning from e-cigarettes to tobacco within a year that was 10 times greater than their peers who had never vaped. This indicates that the high risk of smoking was not just occurring among teens who intended to start smoking anyway, the study’s researchers said.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged lawmakers to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products over fears the devices would encourage teens to smoke regular cigarettes and expose their developing brains to neurologically damaging nicotine.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would finally impose a series of regulatory measures that included banning the sales of e-cigarettes and related products to anyone younger than 18.