E-cigarettes aren’t tied to a decline in teen smoking and the devices may actually tempt some youth to try traditional cigarettes — teens who would otherwise not be drawn to tobacco at all, a U.S. study released Monday suggested.
Youth smoking has steadily declined over the past decade, with no steeper decrease after e-cigarettes debuted on the U.S. market in 2007, researchers report in the U.S. medical journal Pediatrics.
"E-cigarettes are encouraging — not discouraging — youth to smoke and to consume nicotine, and are expanding the tobacco market," said senior author Stanton Glantz, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
In the current study, researchers analyzed survey data collected from more than 140,000 middle and high school students between 2004 and 2014. During the study period, the overall percentages of teens who reported smoking decreased from 40 percent to 22 percent.
The proportion of youth who identified themselves as current smokers dropped from 16 percent to about 6 percent during the same period. However, teen cigarette smoking rates did not decline faster after the arrival of e-cigarettes in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009.
Combined e-cigarette and cigarette use among adolescents in 2014 was higher than total cigarette use in 2009, the study found.
Researchers also looked at characteristics that might make teens more at risk for smoking, such as living with a smoker or wearing clothing with tobacco products or logos.
While teen cigarette smokers in the study often appeared to fit this profile, adolescents who used only e-cigarettes didn’t display these risk factors.
This suggests that at least some low-risk youth would not be using nicotine products if e-cigarettes were not an option, the authors conclude.
This is the eighth long-term study to suggest teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking, Dr. Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of Hawaii Cancer in Honolulu, told Reuters.