26 August 2014

E-cigarettes may tempt non-smokers to start

Non-smoking youths may be more tempted to smoke electronic cigarettes than conventional cigarettes, and are more likely to try regular cigarettes once they have tried e-cigarettes.


Electronic cigarettes may be more tempting to non-smoking youths than conventional cigarettes, and once young people have tried e-cigarettes they are more inclined to give regular cigarettes a try, according to U.S. researchers.

A report, released by a team at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, lends evidence to the argument that electronic cigarettes encourage youth to smoke.

The study, based on nationally representative youth surveys, found that more than a quarter-million adolescents and teens who had never smoked used an electronic cigarette in 2013, a threefold increase from 2011.

Read: Are e-cigarettes a gateway to smoking?

Youths who had tried e-cigarettes were nearly twice as likely to say they would try a conventional cigarette in the next year compared with those who had never tried an e-cigarette, according to the study in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Exotic flavours

E-cigarettes are slim, reusable, metal-tube devices containing nicotine-laced liquids that come in exotic flavours. When users puff, the nicotine is heated and released as a vapour containing no tar, unlike conventional cigarette smoke.

Health experts have raised concerns that the burgeoning $2 billion e-cigarette industry, which has been virtually unregulated, would reverse gains in the decades-long effort to curb youth smoking in the United States. Just 15.7 percent of U.S. teenagers reported smoking in 2013, the lowest rate on record.

Read: Fears that e-cigarettes may lead to tobacco use

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed rules that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 but would not restrict flavoured products, online sales or advertising, which public health advocates say attract children.

Earlier this month, attorneys general from 29 states urged the FDA to strengthen those rules to better protect young people from nicotine addiction.

"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement.

"Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development."

Temptation of conventional cigarettes

In the CDC study, researchers analysed data from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 National Youth Tobacco Surveys of students in grades 6-12. They found that more than 263,000 who had never smoked a conventional cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013, up from 79,000 in 2011.

Read: E-cigarette companies selling addiction?

Among non-smoking youth who had tried electronic cigarettes, 43.9 percent said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year, compared with 21.5 percent of those who had never used e-cigarettes.

Lorillard Inc leads the U.S. e-cigarette market, while Reynolds American Inc and Altria Group Inc are rolling out their own brands nationwide this summer. A Wells Fargo analyst report projected that U.S. sales of e-cigarettes would outpace conventional ones by 2020.

Read more:
As millions vape, e-cigarette researchers count puffs
The dangers of e-cigarettes
Depressives more likely to try e-cigarettes

Image: Big electronic cigarettes from Shutterstock

See breaking news and the hottest health tips before anybody else by joining South Africa’s biggest and best health community, like health24 on Facebook now!


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Exercise benefits for seniors »

Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running

Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness

When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them.