Published: Fri, August 18, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

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

Out of 343 non-smokers of conventional cigarettes but who had tried an e-cigarette, 118 students (34 %) reported smoking at least a cigarette during the year; also, among 1383 students who were non-smokers and had not tried e-cigarettes, 124 (9 %) had since tried at least a cigarette.

The study, which was published in the Tobacco Control journal, claimed this suggested a "robust association" between using vape pens and smoking cigarettes.

Study leader Professor Mark Conner of Leeds University said that among teenagers who had never smoked, "use of e-cigarettes was a strong predictor that within 12 months they would have tried a conventional cigarette".

It could also be that the use of e-cigarettes creates friendship networks with smokers.

The research is the first United Kingdom evidence that vaping may act as a gateway to smoking. This compared with only nine percent in the group who had not tried e-cigarettes when the survey began. The students from 20 United Kingdom schools were asked about their smoking habits, and then again 1 year later.

And strikingly, teens who were already tobacco smokers were more likely to smoke more frequently if they had also tried e-cigarettes, a finding that flies in the face of other studies, typically of adults, suggesting that "vaping" may help wean smokers off their habit.

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The survey data revealed that those who used e-cigarettes and had no friends who smoked were five and a half times more likely to start smoking.

Researchers report that more than one-third of the students ages 13 to 14 said they had used e-cigarettes at baseline and 22.6% said they had smoked traditional cigarettes. Are they a "healthier" alternative to traditional cigarettes?

Kamran Siddiqi, Professor in Public Health at the University of York and another co-author, said: "Our study highlights the value of regulating marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to adolescents".

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, something which the researchers are eager to emphasise. The new devices more closely mimic the way cigarettes work and the authors say there is a need for further research to see if they have an impact on young people taking up smoking.

But Professor Linda Bauld of Stirling University said: 'This study does not provide evidence that using e-cigarettes causes young people to become smokers?...?smoking among young people in the United Kingdom is at an all-time low'.

The researchers therefore wanted to see if there were any similarities in patterns in the United Kingdom, as well as to explore several potential risk factors and influences that have not been looked at before.

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