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E-Cigarettes Luring Non-Smoking Teens to Regular Cigarettes

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E-cigarettes have not decreased teen cigarette smoking and may be enticing adolescent non-smokers to take up tobacco products, according to a new study.

Youth smoking has steadily declined over the past decade, with no steeper decrease after e-cigarettes debuted on the U.S. market in 2007, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

“There is strong evidence in adults, together with some, but more limited evidence in youth, that e-cigarettes are associated with less, not more quitting cigarettes,” said study co-author Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

“The fact is that for kids, as with adults, most e-cigarette users are 'dual users,' meaning that they smoked cigarettes at the same time that they smoked e-cigarettes,” Glantz added by email to Reuters.

For the past decade, some public health officials have been concerned that e-cigarettes may lure a new generation into nicotine addiction. Others have been willing to see if the nicotine producing gadgets might actually help smokers quit cigarettes.

During the study period, the overall percentages of teens that reported any smoking decreased from 40 percent to 22 percent.

The proportion of youth who identified themselves as current smokers dropped from 16 percent to about 6 percent during the same period.

But teen cigarette smoking rates did not decline faster after the arrival of e-cigarettes in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009.

And combined e-cigarette and cigarette use among adolescents in 2014 was higher than total cigarette use in 2009, the study found.

Researcher also looked at the traits that typically go hand –in-hand with youth cigarette smokers such as living with a smoker or wearing clothing with tobacco products or logos.

While teen cigarette smokers in the study often appeared to fit this profile, adolescents who used only e-cigarettes didn’t display these risk factors.

This suggests that some low-risk teens might not use e-cigarettes if they were not an option, the authors noted.

The authors said that the study was not a controlled experiment to see if e-cigarette use directly leads to smoking cigarettes. They also noted that they lacked data on teens that dropped out of school and might have a higher rate of tobacco use than kids that remained in school.

However, this lengthy study suggests teens that use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking, says Dr, Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the university of Hawaii Cancer in Honolulu.

“E-cigarette advocates have tried to argue that this is only because those teens who used e-cigarettes were high-risk people who were going to smoke anyway and their e-cigarette use had nothing to do with this,” Wills, author of an accompanying editorial, said by email.

“A number of studies have now specifically examined this hypothesis,” Wills added. “In each case, the empirical results went against the confounding hypothesis, so we can be confident that the effect of e-cigarettes for contributing to uptake of smoking is a real effect and is not just due to a group of high-risk persons.”

The USDA banned selling e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 in August of 2016. The regulations also require photo IDs to buy e-cigarettes, and ban retailers from handing out free samples or selling them in all-ages vending machines.

The rules also cover other alternative forms of tobacco like cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco.

Seeing a surge in use, U.S. big tobacco companies are now in the business of developing e-cigarettes with flavors. These are the type of e-cigarettes that generally attract younger people.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-teens-e-cigarettes-idUSKBN158009

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