Why do teenagers give e-cigarettes a try? Because these products are easy to obtain, not terribly expensive, come in lots of different flavors and their friends use them. All very adolescent associated reasons.
If they continue using e-cigarettes, it’s because of the low cost and the promise that they can help them quit smoking regular cigarettes, according to senior researcher Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin. She is a professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
Teens who initially tried e-cigarettes because of their low cost had significantly stepped up their use of e-cigarettes by the time researchers checked in six months later.
In addition, teens who tried e-cigarettes to quit smoking were more than 14 times more likely to keep using e-cigarettes than those who did not consider this a reason to try the devices, the findings showed.
Unfortunately, researchers found that e-cigarettes did not help the kids quit smoking. Four out of five teens that were smokers, were still smoking regular cigarettes six months later even though they were using e-cigarettes to quit, the investigators found.
E-cigarettes don't produce tobacco smoke, but they do contain nicotine. And researchers fear they'll create a new generation of smokers, with kids hooked on nicotine turning to tobacco for a stronger fix, Krishnan-Sarin said.
"That is the huge public health debate," she said. "Are kids going to start with e-cigarettes and then move on to cigarettes? Is that going to be the start of nicotine addiction?”
As part of the study, Krishnan-Sarin and her colleagues’ surveyed 340 e-cigarette users in two middle schools and three high schools in 2013, asking them why they first tried e-cigarettes.
Most cited reasons for first trying e-cigarettes as curiosity (57 percent), good flavors (42 percent), use by friends (33 percent), healthier than cigarettes (26 percent), can be used anywhere (21 percent) and does not smell bad (21 percent).
Six months later, researchers checked in with the teens and asked if they were still vaping and if so, why. They then compared the answers to the teens’ reasons for continued use with their previous reasons for starting e-cigarettes.
Kids who cited the low cost of e-cigarettes or their potential help to quit smoking wound up vaping more days on average than those who cited other reasons, the study authors said.
Teens who cited low cost, used e-cigarettes two out of every three days during the previous month, and those who wanted to quit smoking wound up vaping nearly that often, according to the study results.
Other reasons also predicted continued use of e-cigarettes: they don't smell bad; they come in good flavors; friends use them; they can be used anywhere; they can be hidden from adults; and they are healthier than tobacco.
But for kids who kept using e-cigarettes, "the most robust predictors were the low cost and trying e-cigarettes to quit smoking," said lead researcher Krysten Bold, a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.
Krishnan-Sarin said these findings reveal several different means by which policymakers could make e-cigarettes less attractive to teenagers.
Earlier this year, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced new regulations for e-cigarettes. Anyone under 18 years of age cannot purchase them and they must show a photo I.D. if they appear to be younger than 27. Retailers cannot give out samples and cannot sell them in vending machines unless the machines are in adult-only facilities. These new rules went into effect August 8th.
The Food and Drug Administration will have to approve all e-cigarette products that have been available since February 2007. That means nearly every e-cigarette product on the market must go through an application process to deem whether it can continue to be sold.
However, the FDA did not address the issue of different flavors.
Federal officials also could ban the use of flavors in e-cigarettes, as has already been done in traditional cigarettes except for menthol, said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association.
"Despite recommendations from the American Lung Association and others, the final rule did not ban flavorings as they have in ordinary cigarettes," Edelman said. "We continue to believe all the measures that have been applied against ordinary cigarettes should be applied to e-cigarettes."
The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.
Story sources: Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20160808/why-teens-choose-e-cigarettes