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Teens who vape are more likely to smoke cigarettes later in life, according to the findings of a new study that raise further concerns about the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes among teens and young adults.
University of California, San Diego researchers indicate teens who start using e-cigarettes before the age of 18 years old are three times more likely to begin smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes than teens who never tried vaping.
In a study were published in January 2021 issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers focused on identifying predictors of becoming a daily cigarette smoker over the course of a four-year period. They collected data on nearly 16,000 people in the United States ages 12 to 24 years old using the U.S. Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. They determined e-cigarette ever use, age at first use, and daily use for 12 tobacco products.
Teens who start vaping are three times more likely to smoke cigarettes as an adult, when compared to those who never used e-cigarettes during adolescence. These findings are in line with another study, which found teen vaping quadruples the odds of becoming a cigarette smoker later.
Overall, roughly two-thirds of participants 12 to 24 years old said they had tried one tobacco product. One-third of study participants said they tried five or more tobacco products by the end of the study. The most popular of the tobacco products tried were e-cigarettes.
By the end of the study, 12% of participants were daily tobacco users. Of those users, 70% said they use traditional tobacco cigarettes daily. Among 25- to 28-year-olds, 21% said they used cigarettes daily and 3% said they used e-cigarettes daily.
The risk of moving on to cigarette smoking was 15% higher among teens who tried more than five tobacco products compared to those who had only tried one type of product.
Daily cigarette smoking was 6% less likely for teens who waited until after age 18 to experiment with any type of tobacco product.
Teen Vaping Epidemic
While overall, the number of teens who start smoking cigarettes in high school has declined, rates of vaping overall have skyrocketed and e-cigarettes have done little to reduce cigarette smoking.
From 2016 to 2019, the number of cigarette smokers among U.S. high school seniors dropped from 28% to 22%. However, e-cigarette use increased from 39% to 46%. Teen use of e-cigarettes is more likely to go unnoticed by parents than cigarette smoking.
Researchers emphasize there is an urgent need to reconsider policies on e-cigarettes and hold them to the same standards as the cigarette companies, such as their right to advertise to teens.
“Trying e-cigarettes and multiple other tobacco products before age 18 years is strongly associated with later daily cigarette smoking,” researchers wrote. “The recent large increase in e-cigarette use will likely reverse the decline in cigarette smoking among U.S. young adults.”