E-cig­a­rette use by teenagers linked to later smok­ing of to­bacco prod­ucts: study

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Teens who use e-cig­a­rettes are more likely than oth­ers to later smoke con­ven­tional cig­a­rettes and other to­bacco prod­ucts, a study at 10 Los An­ge­les high schools sug­gests.

The study doesn’t prove that elec­tronic cig­a­rettes are a “gate­way drug” but some doc­tors say it bol­sters ar­gu­ments that the de­vices should be strictly reg­u­lated as pro­posed by the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Whether teens had


just one e-cig­a­rette or were ha­bit­ual users isn’t known, nor is whether they be­came heavy smok­ers or just had a few puffs. That in­for­ma­tion would be needed to help de­ter­mine whether nico­tine from e-cig­a­rettes pre­dis­posed users to seek out other sources.

De­spite those lim­i­ta­tions, the study “is the strong­est ev­i­dence to date that e-cig­a­rettes might pose a health haz­ard by en­cour­ag­ing ado­les­cents to start smok­ing con­ven­tional to­bacco prod­ucts,” said Dr. Nancy Rig­otti, di­rec­tor of a to­bacco re­search and treat­ment cen­ter at Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. Her com­men­tary and the study were both pub­lished in Tues­day’s Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

E-cig­a­rettes haven’t been ex­ten­sively stud­ied and there’s no sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on any po­ten­tial ben­e­fits or harms, in­clud­ing whether they lead kids to be­come reg­u­lar smok­ers.

The new, gov­ern­ment-funded study in­volved about 2,500 14-year- olds who had never used con­ven­tional to­bacco prod­ucts in­clud­ing cig­a­rettes. Stu­dents were first sur­veyed in fall 2013. The Los An­ge­les study pop­u­la­tion was di­verse but whether the same re­sults would be found na­tion­wide is un­cer­tain.

At the start, about 9 per­cent — 222 kids — said they had used e-cig­a­rettes at least once, sim­i­lar to rates seen in a re­cent na­tional sur­vey. Al­most one-third of them tried cig­a­rettes, cigars or wa­ter pipes within the fol­low­ing six months, ver­sus just 8 per­cent of the kids who’d never tried e-cig­a­rettes. The gap per­sisted when stu­dents were sur­veyed again, a year af­ter the study be­gan.

Hookahs and cigars were more pop­u­lar than reg­u­lar cig­a­rettes in both groups.

The re­searchers con­sid­ered traits that might make teens more likely to use to­bacco, in­clud­ing im­pul­sive­ness, delin­quent be­hav­ior and par­ents’ smok­ing habits. Their anal­y­sis showed those traits played a role but didn’t fully ex­plain the link be­tween e-cig­a­rettes and later to­bacco use.

Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia re­searcher Adam Leven­thal, the study’s lead au­thor, noted that e-cig­a­rettes were ini­tially in­tro­duced as a po­ten­tially safer al­ter­na­tive to to­bacco for smok­ers who were try­ing to cut down, but they have evolved into a recre­ational prod­uct for some users.

Avail­able for nearly a decade, e-cig­a­rettes are bat­tery-pow­ered de­vices that turn nico­tine-con­tain­ing liq­uid into va­por that is in­haled. Though nico­tine can be ad­dic­tive, e-cig­a­rettes lack the chem­i­cals and tars of burn­ing to­bacco.

Na­tional data show e-cig­a­rettes have be­come more pop­u­lar among U.S. teens than reg­u­lar cig­a­rettes.

Leven­thal said his study “does lit­tle to dis­pel con­cerns that recre­ational e-cig­a­rette use might be as­so­ci­ated with mov­ing on to these very harm­ful to­bacco prod­ucts.” But he said more re­search is needed to de­ter­mine if e-cig­a­rettes are re­ally the cul­prit.

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