Researchers have revealed that e-cigarette use is associated with a higher risk of cigarette smoking among adolescents who had no prior intention of taking up conventional smoking.
The study, published in the journal Paediatrics, found that e-cigarettes can predispose adolescents to cigarette smoking, even when they have no prior intentions to do so.
“Research is showing us that adolescent e-cigarette users who progress to cigarette smoking are not simply those who would have ended up smoking cigarette anyway,” said study author Olusegun Owotomo from the Children’s National Hospital in the US.
In one of the first theory-guided nationally representative studies to identify which adolescent e-cigarette users are at most risk of progressing to cigarette smoking, researchers looked at data of more than 8,000 adolescents, ages 12-17, who had never smoked.
The data was collected by the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, an NIH and FDA collaborative nationally representative prospective cohort study of tobacco use, from 2014-2016.
Among adolescents who did not intend to smoke cigarettes in the future, those who used e-cigarettes were more than four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes one year later compared to those who did not use e-cigarettes.
E-cigarette use constitutes a relatively new risk factor for nicotine use disorder among US adolescents.
Previous studies found that 28 percent of high school students and 11 percent of middle school students were current e-cigarette users.
With the recent emergence of newer and potentially highly addictive e-cigarette products, adolescents who use e-cigarettes are at increased risk of developing nicotine use disorder and progressing to smoke conventional cigarettes.
“Abstinence from e-cigarettes can protect teens from becoming future smokers and should be framed as a smoking prevention strategy by all concerned stakeholders,” Owotomo noted.