April 23, 2015
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Regular e-cigarette use in children, adolescents low, associated with smoking

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Frequent e-cigarette use in Welsh children and adolescents was low and associated with smoking, according to recent data.

“The prevalence of experimental e-cigarette use, combined with few distinctions according gender or family background could allow e-cigarettes to become normalized relatively quickly with the youth population,” the researchers wrote. “However, at present, there is a very low prevalence of regular use, which suggests that e-cigarettes are unlikely to be making a significant direct contribution to adolescent nicotine addiction.”

Two cross-sectional studies conducted in Wales between 2013 and 2014, CHETS Wales 2 and HBSC Wales, assessed the prevalence of e-cigarette use in 1,601 primary-school children aged 10 to 11 years and 9,055 secondary-school children aged 11 to 16 years, respectively. The researchers combined those findings and evaluated how prevalence was associated with socio-demographics, tobacco use and cannabis use.

They found that e-cigarette use in children aged 10 to 11 years was more frequent than tobacco use (5.8% vs 1.6%) with most never having used tobacco (5.3%). However, repetitive e-cigarette use was less common (3.7% vs 2.1%).

Similarly, those aged 11 to 16 years who used e-cigarettes were not likely to use them habitually, which was defined as at least once a month (12.3% vs 1.5%). The higher prevalence of e-cigarette use compared with tobacco use persisted until the age of 15 to 16, according to the results.

Although most e-cigarette users did not smoke tobacco, a relative risk ratio showed that current weekly smokers were 100 times more likely to use e-cigarettes on a regular basis compared with those who did not smoke (RR = 121.15; 95% CI, 57.56-254.97). In addition, frequent e-cigarette use was also associated with cannabis use (RR = 53.03; 95% CI, 38.87-80.65).

Socio-determinants including family affluence and ethnicity did not affect the prevalence of e-cigarette use, although most e-cigarette users aged 10 to 11 years were boys (P = 0.03).

“Further research is needed to understand the motivations behind young people’s experimentation with e-cigarette use and to understand the temporal relationships between use of e-cigarettes and tobacco,” the researchers concluded.

Disclosure: Moore reports he receives research funding from an MRC Population Health Scientist Fellowship. See the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.