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NIDA: E-cigarettes may lead to future tobacco use

August 18, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study, kids who have used electronic cigarettes by ninth grade are comparatively more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes within the next year.

More than 30 percent of kids who had used e-cigarettes by the start of ninth grade began using other tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars and hookahs within six months, compared to only 8.1 percent of those who had never used e-cigarettes. Over the next six months, 25.2 percent of e-cigarette users had used combustible tobacco products, compared to just 9.3 percent of nonusers.

“While teen tobacco use has fallen in recent years, this study confirms that we should continue to vigilantly watch teen smoking patterns,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, in a news release. “Parents and teens should recognize that although e-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic effects of regular cigarettes, they do carry a risk of addiction.”

The study compared tobacco use initiation among 222 new ninth-grade students who had used only e-cigarettes, and 2,308 who had neither used e-cigarettes or combustible tobacco products. Data were collected as part of a longitudinal survey of substance use and mental health among students in 10 public high schools in Los Angeles.

“While we cannot conclude that e-cigarette use directly leads to smoking, this research raises concerns that recent increases in youth e-cigarette use could ultimately perpetuate the epidemic of smoking-related illness." said Adam M. Leventhal, PhD, associate professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and first author on the study.

The authors recommend further studies to determine whether the observed link between e-cigarettes and smoking initiation is causal. In addition, the study focused solely on smoking initiation, and further research is needed to assess whether e-cigarette use is associated with an increased risk of ongoing, frequent combustible tobacco use.

The paper, published by Leventhal et al. in the Journal of the American Medical Association, can be found here