Youth who have used electronic cigarettes by the time they start ninth grade are more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products within the next year, according to a new National Institutes of Health study.
E-cigarettes deliver nicotine to the lungs by heating a liquid solution that contains nicotine and other chemicals to produce an aerosol that the user inhales, a process often called “vaping.” There has been considerable debate over the safety of vaping and this NIH study is the first to link such activity to increase drisk of tobacco use as students grow older.
The study compared tobacco use initiation among 222 students who had used e-cigarettes, but not combustible tobacco products, and 2,308 who had neither used e-cigarettes or combustible tobacco products when initially surveyed at the start of ninth grade. During the first six months after being surveyed, 30.7% of those who had used e-cigarettes started using combustible tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs, compared to only 8.1% of those who had never used e-cigarettes. Over the following six months leading into the start of 10th grade, 25.2% of e-cigarette users had used combustible tobacco products, compared to just 9.3% of nonusers.
“While teen tobacco use has fallen in recent years, this study confirms that we should continue to vigilantly watch teen smoking patterns,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow. “Parents and teens should recognize that although e-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic effects of regular cigarettes, they do carry a risk of addiction.”
Data were collected as part of a longitudinal survey of substance use and mental health among high school students in Los Angeles. The study surveyed students from 10 public high schools selected because of their diverse demographic characteristics and proximity. The analysis focused on 2,530 students who initially reported never using combustible tobacco and underwent follow-up assessments after six and 12 months. Students were asked about lifetime and past six-month use of e-cigarettes, combustible cigarettes, full-size cigars, little cigars/cigarillos, hookah water pipes, and blunts