Study identifies link between e-cigarette and tobacco use in school children

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In the ongoing debate over whether e-cigarettes help smokers quit or lure new smokers to take up the habit, a new study is sounding the alarm over the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents.

PEOPLE who use e-cigarettes were significantly more likely to have quit smoking, new research suggests.

Results reveal that among those who have never tried cigarettes but have vaped, 34.4 per cent light up a year later. "But it's not - smoking amongst young people in the United Kingdom is at an all-time low".

The study looked at 14 and 15-year-olds from 20 English schools, and found that those who used e-cigarettes, or vape pens, had a higher probability of moving onto smoking cigarettes.

The study covered a short period of time, and so can't say what happened to the students' smoking and vaping habits, and whether or not they became regular smokers.

But the researchers call for caution in interpreting the survey data on which the findings are based: while vaping prevalence has increased in the United Kingdom, smoking prevalence has continued to fall, they point out. They wanted to see if there was an association between e-cigarette use and an increase in tobacco use.

Contrary to popular opinion, the findings also showed that for those who did not have friends who smoked, the use of e-cigarettes was a better predictor of starting smoking, making a student five and a half times more likely to start smoking, as compared to a friendship group where most smoked where e-cigarettes were only one and a half times more likely to start smoking. However, there are concerns that these forms of smoking will be used as a gateway to smoking with cigarettes.

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The vast majority of the children were non-smokers, but a third had experimented with e-cigarettes.

The scientific paper raises the question that the adolescents who tried e-cigarettes would have tried smoking anyway, whether e-cigarettes were available or not?

Cristine Delnevo, the study's second author, said: "Without knowing details about device attributes, user experiences, and motivations for e-cigarette use, reasons for low cessation rates among infrequent e-cigarette users are unclear". Also, it is important to remain observant by close monitoring of the use of e-cigarettes in minors.

The evidence also showed that e-cigarettes heightened the chances of teenagers who already had a history of smoking increasing their tobacco consumption.

The survey data was collected as part of an observational study.

At baseline, almost two thirds (61.5%, 1726) of the sample had neither tried vaping nor smoking; 16% said they had only tried e-cigarettes; 4.4% had tried the real thing, but not e-cigarettes; and almost one in five (18.1%) had tried both. The need of more research to know whether this has any impact on young people in taking up smoking is put forth by the researchers.