Teen Vapers May Be More Likely to Become Heavy Smokers

Like many of us you surely have read through several studies talking about electronic cigarettes as the healthier and safer alternative to regular cigarettes.

A stupendous number of smokers have the perception that swapping tobacco cigarettes with e-cigs is a safer option and it aids in cutting down on smoking, however, in reality, vaping is proven to be a ‘gateway’ to teen cigarette smoking, according to a new U.S. study.

The study by researchers at the University of Southern California’s Emotion and Addiction Laboratory in Los Angeles has found that teenagers who regularly puff e-cigarettes are more vulnerable to become frequent smokers. More worryingly, they can develop a heavy cigarette habit in future, warns the study.

The latest study outcome fuels already simmering debate over whether vaping facilitates in smoking cessation, or act as a gateway to tobacco use.

“It’s such an emerging public health issue,” cautions lead author Adam Leventhal, director of the Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. “These teens aren’t just experimenting—a significant portion are progressing to more regular levels of smoking.”

To arrive at their conclusion, researchers examined data on 3,084 10th grade students (15-year-old) at 10 Los Angeles high schools who responded to two surveys – one in the fall 2014 semester and another in the spring 2015 semester.

The participating teens filled out questionnaires at the beginning of the school year and again at the end, asking for details about how often they had vaped or smoked in the past month.

At the start of the study, 2,075 students (67 %) said they had never vaped, while 730 (23 %) reported having used an e-cigarette in the past, another 133 vaped on two or fewer days in the previous 30 days and mere 146 teens (about 5 %) said they were frequent e-cigarette users, meaning they vaped three or more days in the previous 30 days.

The facts analysis showed that teens who reported having vaping habit at the start of the study were about 10 times more likely to become regular smokers six months later, compared to their peers who had never used e-cigarettes. While 20 percent of these routine vapers transitioned into regular cigarette smokers, less than 1 percent of students who had never vaped smoked at least one day a month by the end of the study period.

“In this study of adolescents, vaping more frequently was associated with a higher risk of more frequent and heavy smoking six months later. The transition from vaping to smoking may warrant particular attention in tobacco control policy,” Leventhal concluded.

The current research findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).