Young people who smoke electronic-cigarettes are more likely to become tobacco smokers within a year, according to a new study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.
Previous studies have found that teens who smoke e-cigarettes go on to smoke tobacco cigarettes at high rates but none, until now, have determined a direct connection or reasons why that may happen.
The trend for young people to graduate to tobacco cigarettes is boosted by several factors, according to the study. Those include getting used to nicotine in smaller doses and the ease in accessing e-cigarettes.
The study comes as the FDA is considering how to regulate e-cigarettes and while the California legislature also considers a slew of tobacco related bills, including one that would regulate e-cigarettes in the same way tobacco products are regulated.
This new study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
“E-cigarettes are not subject to many laws that regulate traditional cigarettes, such as age limits on sales, taxation and labeling requirements. They also come in youth-oriented flavorings that laws have limited in traditional cigarettes, such as apple bubble gum and chocolate candy cane,” said Brian Primack, lead author of the study and director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health.
Researchers say the main factors driving the trend are:
- E-cigarettes deliver nicotine more slowly than traditional cigarettes, so they allow novice smokers to build up a desire and tolerance for more nicotine in regular cigarettes.
- The act of vaping mimics how a smoker puffs on a cigarette so a user gets used to the behavior and sensory act of smoking.
- Lax regulation has made e-cigarettes more accessible to youth because they are seen as a tool for long-term smokers to use to quit and not as an entry into smoking.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 700 youth, ages 16 to 26, surveyed in 2012 and 2013. By the second survey 38 percent of the e-cigarette users had begun smoking tobacco cigarettes. Of those who didn't vape only 10 percent had begun smoking tobacco cigarettes.