Researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City conducted a study using the data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey and found that 58 percent of of middle and high school students who used flavored e-cigarettes had intentions to start smoking traditional cigarettes. None of them had never smoked before.
“Due to a proliferation of e-cigarette flavors on the market, flavored e-cigarette use among youth in the U.S. has increased significantly,” said study author Hongying Dai, an associate professor of Kansas City Children’s Mercy Hospital health services and outcomes. “The majority of youth who have ever used e-cigarettes started with a flavored product.”
Dai also emphasized that flavored e-cigarette use by youth could possibly be a gateway for traditional smoking, and the products are also linked with decreased odds of quitting traditional smoking. “Comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies that address flavored e-cigarette products are critically needed to reduce tobacco use among youth,” Dai reports.
According to the study, a significant majority of youth who used flavored e-cigarettes said they would probably smoke traditional cigarettes in the future. None of them had ever smoked before. Additionally, “dual-users,” or users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, said they were much less likely to quit smoking.
“This is an important paper that shows how e-cigarette flavors are expanding the tobacco epidemic, particularly their important role in stimulating youth use of e-cigs and progression to smoking conventional cigarettes,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of tobacco control at the University of California, San Francisco. “Even if kids don’t start smoking conventional cigarettes, expanding the use of e-cigarettes among kids is itself dangerous.”
In a recent report released by the U.S. Surgeon General, the increased popularity of e-cigarette use among youth is a major public health concern. The report points out that until age 25 the brain is undergoing tremendous development. Addiction to products that contain nicotine such as e-cigarettes can harm the rapidly developing brain.
The report also warns many flavored e-cigarettes contain the flavoring agent diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease such as bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung,” a disease in which the smallest airways in the lungs form scar tissue that diminishes breathing.