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Parents! You think e-cigs are OK for teens? Think again

You might think that people who smoke electronic cigarettes are safe but the reality is quite different. Teen who use e-cigs are likelier to start smoking traditional cigarettes than their peers who do not.

In the study, researchers from University of Pittsburgh analysed data on a national sample of nearly 700 16 to 26-year-old nonsmokers surveyed in 2012 and again in 2013.

The researchers noted that in one year, 38 percent of the baseline e-cigarette users had initiated traditional cigarette smoking. In comparison, only 10 percent of the youths who were not baseline e-cigarette users started smoking traditional cigarettes.

Lead author Brian Primack said that these differences remained statistically significant and robust even when they controlled for multiple known risk factors for initiating cigarette smoking, such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sensation seeking, parental smoking and friend smoking.

Primack and their team theorised why e-cigarette smoking might serve as a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking as e-cigarettes deliver nicotine more slowly than traditional cigarettes, allowing a new user to advance to cigarette smoking as he or she becomes tolerant of nicotine side effects.

E-cigarettes are designed to mimic the behavioral and sensory act of cigarette smoking, allowing the user to become accustomed to the act of smoking.

Regulating e-cigarettes is controversial because they are sometimes used as harm reduction tools by established smokers.

The researchers concluded that it was important to continue surveillance of both e-cigarettes and tobacco products among young people so policymakers could establish research-informed regulations to help prevent e-cigarettes from becoming gateway products on the road to youth smoking.

The study is published in the Journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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