Teenagers may try e-cigarettes, but relatively few become regular users—and those that do likely already smoke regular cigarettes.
The odds of a teen becoming a regular user of e-cigarettes are 100 times higher if they are currently a weekly smoker—and 50 times higher if they smoke marijuana.
The findings, published in BMJ Open, are based on the results of two nationally representative surveys of primary and secondary schoolchildren from more than 150 schools, carried out in Wales in 2013 and 2014.
E-cigarettes’ wider appeal
In all, 1,601 children ages 10 to 11 and 9,055 children ages 11 to 16 were asked about their use of e-cigarettes.
Using e-cigarettes at least once was more common than having smoked a conventional cigarette among all age groups, except the oldest (15- to 16-year-olds).
Approximately 5.8 percent of children 10 to 11 years old tried e-cigarettes, compared to only 1.6 percent who said they smoked tobacco. A sizable proportion (12.3 percent) of 11- to 16-year-olds said they had used e-cigarettes, irrespective of gender, ethnic background, or family affluence.
This is in contrast with patterns seen in smoking, where all these factors come into play, suggesting e-cigarettes may have a wider appeal than tobacco among overall.
Further, the proportion of children who had used e-cigarettes, but who had never smoked, rose from 5.3 percent among 10- to 11-year-olds, to 8 percent among 15- to 16-year-olds.
Only 1.5 percent (125) of those ages 11 to 16 said they used e-cigarettes regularly—defined as at least once a month. This includes 0.3 percent of those who say they have never smoked conventional cigarettes.
“While experimentation with e-cigarettes is becoming common among youth in Wales, these figures suggest that e-cigarettes are unlikely to make a major direct contribution to adolescent nicotine addiction at present,” says Graham Moore of the University of Sheffield.
The strong relationship between current smoking and e-cigarette use suggests that teens are not using these products to help them quit smoking.
“Although our study has provided an insight into the use of e-cigarettes, differences across studies in the questions used to measure e-cigarettes present something of a challenge for research in this area,” Moore says.
“We should continue to monitor trends in young people’s e-cigarette use closely as the products themselves and the landscapes in which they are bought and sold continue to evolve. Longer term studies to include the generation of young people who have grown up with e-cigarettes are needed before firmer conclusions can be drawn.”
Source: Cardiff University