According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), teen electronic cigarette use has sky-rocketed by an alarming rate – 78 percent — in the past year.
Now, a new study looks to answer the question: “Are e-cigarettes increasing the odds for all teens to start smoking?”
The study looked at 6,123 teenagers between the ages of 12-15 and surveyed them on their use of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products over time.
Researchers learned that not only were e-cigarettes the product of choice for most of the teens who chose to smoke, but those teens who started smoking with e-cigarettes were more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes in the future.
“When someone started using an electronic cigarette, the chances of smoking a regular cigarette were actually four times higher, and three times higher for that teenager to continue to use a cigarette,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Humberto Choi, who did not take part in the research.
Researchers said this trend was especially true for teens who were considered “low risk” for ever becoming traditional cigarette smokers.
Choi said e-cigarettes are especially attractive to teens because of the variety of flavors and colors that are available.
He said the results of the study point to a common misconception of many people — that e-cigarettes are “safer” than traditional cigarettes.
Choi said perhaps the biggest danger of e-cigarettes is that many people — even adults — don’t realize they contain nicotine, the highly addictive substance that keeps them coming back for more.
“Young adults and teenagers are beginning a new habit that is addictive, and their brains are still under development, so now their brains are developing with an addiction, unfortunately,” he said.
Choi recommends that all parents, teachers and pediatricians have an open and honest conversation with teens about e-cigarettes and their addictive nature, as well as their potential to lead to even more damaging smoking habits down the road.
Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Network Open.
— Submitted by Cleveland Clinic News Service. In the April issue of Northeast Ohio Parent, we’ll go into more detail about this alarming trend, including what schools in the region are doing to address the issue.