August 08, 2016
2 min read

E-cigarette use occurs among adolescents who never used tobacco

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E-cigarettes may be recruiting a new group of adolescent users who likely would not have used combustible tobacco products in the absence of e-cigarettes, according to recent research in Pediatrics.

“In 2014, current use of e-cigarettes surpassed current cigarette use for the first time in several national studies, as well as the number of local and state-level studies, including our study of Southern California adolescents,” Jessica L. Barrington-Trimis, PhD, postdoctoral scholar research associate in the department of preventive medicine at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, and colleagues wrote.

To assess smoking patterns among adolescents spanning 2 decades, the researchers analyzed data from the Southern California Children’s Health Study. The longitudinal study of school cohorts in eight communities followed them through 12th grade in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2014. Participants (n = 5,490) were enrolled from entire classrooms, and analyses were performed using data from five cohorts in grades 11 and 12. Participants were asked how many cigarettes or packs of cigarettes they smoked in the last day, week, month, year and in their lifetime. In 2014, the researchers assessed smoking history in one of the cohorts, and they also were asked how old they were when they had their first cigarette and the number of days they smoked in the past 30 days. The use of e-cigarettes, first available in the United States in 2007, also was examined for the first time.

Results showed an association with e-cigarettes and an increase in use among high school seniors. In 2014, the combined adjusted prevalence of current cigarette or e-cigarette use was 13.7% vs. 9% in 2004 before e-cigarettes were available (P =.003). The researchers wrote that this was only slightly lower than the 14.7% adjusted prevalence of smoking cigarettes in 2001.

The significant increase in the combined prevalence of cigarette and e-cigarette smoking in 2014 suggested that e-cigarettes were not used strictly by adolescents who would have otherwise smoked cigarettes, Barrington-Trimis and colleagues said. This wider use of e-cigarettes poses several potential public health risks, including lifelong nicotine-dependency, they wrote.

“Although the adverse health effects of e-cigarettes may be less than those of cigarettes, the long-term consequences of e-cigarette use are not known because these products have been on the market for less than a decade,” Barrington-Trimis and colleagues said. – by Kate Sherrer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.