Teens who would never smoke cigarettes now getting taste for vaping – study

© Mario Anzuoni
Many US teenagers now vaping flavored e-cigarettes wouldn’t necessarily have taken up smoking if regular tobacco cigarettes were the only choice, a new study finds. The vaporizing trend has promoted nicotine use to levels not seen since the 1990s.

“E-cigarettes are not merely substituting for cigarettes… e-cigarette use is occurring in adolescents who would not otherwise have used tobacco products,” the study, published on Monday in the journal of American Academy of Pediatrics, says.

A group of scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) based their findings on the assessment of 5,490 high school seniors, who graduated in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2014.

The number of teens who reportedly smoked cigarettes or e-cigarettes went up from about 9 percent in 2004 to almost 14 percent in 2014. The pattern recurs in various groups of adolescents taking part in the research, including males and females, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

While the overall number of people smoking cigarettes has fallen, the combined figure of people smoking cigarettes and vaping e-cigarettes has soared.

Dr. Jessica Barrington-Trimis, a research associate at USC and lead author of the study, concluded that vaping was “eroding the progress made over the last several decades in tobacco control,” she said, according to the Daily Mail.

“E-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes for adults who are transitioning from smoking to vaping but for youths who have never used any other tobacco products, nicotine experimentation could become nicotine addiction,” she added.

Though e-cigarettes do not include tobacco, their inhalers heat up and vaporize flavored liquid and nicotine. The flavors range from tobacco and menthol to alcohol or fruity and sweet combinations. Chocolate and cookie flavors also exist, and critics point out they can be highly attractive to children.

“However, use of e-cigarettes by youths who would not otherwise have smoked results in exposure to hazards of inhaled vapourised liquids and flavourings in e-cigarettes and may result in exposure to nicotine that can damage the adolescent brain,” said one of the study authors, Dr. Rob McConnell, professor of preventive medicine at USC.

Manufacturers argued that the new way of smoking could help fight tobacco addiction by making people switch to e-cigarettes. However, the study shows that people, who in other circumstances would never touch a cigarette, are now experimenting with vaping.

An opinion poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos in April and May showed that 47 percent of Americans believe vaping is as dangerous as ordinary smoking, while 43 percent do not think that e-cigarettes could come in handy for those who try to quit smoking.