March 27, 2017
3 min read

Adolescent e-cigarette use may not lead to combustible cigarette use

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Previously published data suggesting that people, especially teenagers, who use electronic cigarettes are more likely to start smoking combustible cigarettes may not be accurate, according to findings published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“The national trends in vaping and cigarette smoking do not support the argument that vaping is leading to smoking,” Lynn T. Kozlowski, PhD, of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, said in a press release. “There is little evidence that those who have never smoked cigarettes or never used other tobacco products and first try e-cigarettes will later move on to cigarette usage with great frequency or daily, regular smoking.”

Kozlowski and Kenneth E. Warner, PhD, of the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, wrote that one shortcoming of existing prospective studies is that they use small sample population sizes, which in turn leads to smaller risk.

“The aggregate risk implied by [these] studies is very small. Further — and we consider this very important — the data from large national cross-sectional studies provide no evidence that kids’ use of e-cigarettes is increasing smoking. If anything, those data suggest the opposite,” they wrote.

Although “unpleasant to contemplate,” Kozlowski and Warner also wrote that the public health community and policymakers must weigh the financial pros and cons associated with keeping e-cigarettes on the market for use as a cessation tool vs. the costs that would come from people who transition from e-cigarettes to combustible cigarette smoking.

The researchers also suggested that because many young smokers grew up in an era that largely proclaimed the dangers of traditional smoking, they will not move onto those devices.

“We need to appreciate that growing antismoking sentiment, accompanied and reinforced

by more stringent tobacco control policies, is likely to increase the ranks of former smokers in the coming decades,” Kozlowski and Warner wrote. “With smoking cessation rates up in recent years, the odds that a youth who begins smoking now remains a smoker 30 years from now are likely to decline substantially.”

Kozlowski and Warner concluded by acknowledging that future research could debunk their findings.

“Overall, we conclude that the risks for youth posed by e-cigarettes likely fall far short of those feared by the products’ opponents. Conceivably, e-cigarettes may create a net benefit for some high-risk young people. We are mindful of our own risk of falling victim to signal-detection biases. Readers will judge for themselves the probity of our effort to avoid such biases,” they wrote. “Is it possible we could have our cake and eat it too? Perhaps, especially if sensible comprehensive harm reduction policies can earn a place in modern tobacco control efforts.” – by Janel Miller

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.