e-Cigarettes Prompting Kids to Smoke

Megan Brooks

August 26, 2014

A new study shows that adolescents and teenagers who have never smoked cigarettes are giving electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) a try.

"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or other tobacco products. Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development," Tim McAfee, MD, PhD, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a statement.

The study was published online August 20 in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

3-Fold Increase

Investigators, led by Rebecca E. Bunnell, ScD, MEd, associate director of the Office on Smoking and Health, analyzed data from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 National Youth Tobacco surveys of middle school and high school students.

They found that more than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013. This number reflects a 3-fold increase, from about 79,000 in 2011 to more than 263,000 in 2013.

Those who had never smoked conventional cigarettes but who used e-cigarettes were almost twice as likely to say they intend to smoke conventional cigarettes as those who had never used e- cigarettes.

Among nonsmoking youth who had ever used e-cigarettes, 43.9% said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year, compared with 21.5% of those who had never used e- cigarettes, the researchers said.

"The increasing number of young people who use e-cigarettes should be a concern for parents and the public health community, especially since youth e-cigarette users were nearly twice as likely to have intentions to smoke conventional cigarettes compared with youth who had never tried e-cigarettes," Dr. Bunnell said in the statement.

The study also looked at exposure to tobacco advertising and found that the greater the number of advertising sources youth encountered ― including ads found online, in magazines, in retail stores, as well as on television and in the movies ― the more likely they were to say they intended to smoke cigarettes, a finding consistent with previous studies.

Call to Action

Earlier this month, attorneys general from 29 states urged the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen its proposed regulation on e-cigarettes to better protect young people from nicotine addiction.

In April, the FDA proposed rules that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18 years but that would not restrict flavored products, online sales, or advertising, which public health advocates say attract children.

"These important scientific data show e-cigarette use among youth will begin kids on a lifelong addiction to nicotine and tobacco products. The Obama administration and FDA must issue its final rule asserting jurisdiction over e-cigarettes by the end of 2014 and begin meaningful oversight of these products so that we do not lose another generation of kids to tobacco-caused death and disease," Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

Nicotine Tob Res. Published online August 20, 2014. Abstract

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