Teen Use of E-Cigarettes Has Strong Link to Smoking

Teens may think 'vaping' is less harmful than smoking tobacco

Teens who use electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, may be more likely to start smoking tobacco, a new study says.

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Researchers from the University of Southern California examined data from more than 2,500 students from 10 public high schools in Los Angeles who had never used tobacco. The researchers followed up with the students six months and a year later. They found that students who used e-cigarettes were more likely to have started smoking tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars.

“What they found is that kids who smoke e-cigarettes are more likely to get into regular cigarettes or other substances,” says adolescent medicine expert Ellen Rome, MD, MPH. “This is not surprising.”

The study authors say some teens may be more likely to use e-cigarettes because they don’t think e-cigarettes are harmful or addictive.

More research is necessary to see if e-cigarettes are responsible for teens to smoke tobacco cigarettes or if the two behaviors are just related.

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Gaining popularity

E-cigarettes are devices that can look like real cigarettes. E-cigarettes are powered by batteries. They produce a vapor from a flavored fluid that normally contains a third to half the nicotine found in a tobacco cigarette. Users simulate smoking by inhaling the vapor — which gives the practice its slang term of ‘vaping’.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine without the tar and smoke of traditional tobacco cigarettes. But doctors say they still carry risks.

Researchers know that the nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels. However, they don’t yet know the cumulative damage e-cigarettes cause to your heart, lungs and blood vessels. Many experts urge everyone to not smoke anything, including e-cigarettes.

This is especially important for heart patients. If you have heart problems, you are particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently recommended that the government implement stricter E-cigarette regulation until further studies can verify the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on the heart.

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E-cigarettes are becoming popular. Many of those taking up the habit are teens who have never tried tobacco products.

A little talk goes a long way

Dr. Rome recommends parents include e-cigarettes when they talk to kids about the dangers of smoking.

“Try to show your children that smoking anything is not permitted,” Dr. Rome says. “That way, they will know that it’s not okay to start any nicotine product, including e-cigarettes.”

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