One study coming from the University of Southern California suggests that U.S. teens are increasingly becoming fond of vaping.
As e-cigarettes are gaining ground, the question that the study poses is whether traditional tobacco products usage could continue to fall from grace with teens or would e-cigarette usage lead teens to smoking tobacco cigarettes again.
Arguably, e-cigarettes are a safer option. Yet, nicotine is still an ingredient in some of the substances used for vaping.
The USC study, published in the Pediatrics journal sparked a public debate on the pros and cons of e-cigarettes and teen preferences for either vaping or tobacco products. According to the study, a quarter of the high school students surveyed had tried vaping at least once. One in five students declared having smoked a traditional cigarette. On the other hand, another two out of five that were users of e-cigarettes had never tried a traditional one.
So, are the fears that teens could go back to smoking tobacco legitimate? In the past years, the number of teens picking up smoking has decreased significantly. But e-cigarettes popularity is worryingly pointing that numbers could go back up.
The study included 2,000 high school students, both senior and junior, all located in Southern California. Researchers made a distinction between current users and past users, which meant that the teens had used either e-cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes in the past 30 days at least once, or they had but before the past 30 days.
Of the 2,000, 9.6 percent were found to be current e-cigarette users. 5.7 percent were also current users of tobacco cigarettes. 24 percent of the students had tried vaping. They were also likely to be part of the 18.7 percent who had tried a tobacco cigarette. Still, 40.5 percent of the e-cigarette users reported never having tried a traditional cigarette.
“We found that, collectively, these factors that indicate a positive social environment mean that e-cigarettes are becoming more normalized,”
commented Jessica Barrington-Trimis, the lead researcher on the study and an associate researcher at the University of Southern California.
At the same time, the study found that 34 percent of the teens surveyed were influenced by their friends and families in picking up vaping. Another set of data indicates that from 2013 to 2014, the number of teens picking up e-cigarettes experienced an increase, from 4.5 to 13.4 percent, while teen tobacco smoking decreased.
Still, researchers are concerned that e-cigarette smoking is the pathway to cigarette smoking and nicotine addiction, a health concern that has been keeping health authorities busy.
According to Barrington-Trimis:
“The long-term hazards of e-cigarettes are not established, but e-cigarettes often contain nicotine, which is both addictive and damaging to the development of adolescents’ brains, and e-cigarettes may also contain other chemical toxins.”
Still, the study is not conclusive in this sense as it fails to provide data on how many teens have tried once and never again or how many teens are regular users of e-cigarettes.
Controversial as they are, e-cigarettes and vaping seem to be the pathway away from tobacco smoking rather than to reversing the declining trend found with teens.
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