Young people who smoke electronic cigarettes are considerably more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes within a year than their peers who do not smoke e-cigarettes, new research shows.
According to an analysis led by University of Pittsburgh and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Centre, more youth in the US than ever are using e-cigarettes and that as many half of these adolescents are not smoking traditional cigarettes.
"E-cigarettes are not subject to many laws that regulate traditional cigarettes, such as age limits on sales, taxation and labelling requirements," said Brian Primack, assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt's schools of the health sciences.
E-cigarettes are easier for adolescents to purchase and, in many respects, more attractive to young people than traditional cigarettes.
"They also come in youth-oriented flavourings that laws have limited in traditional cigarettes, such as apple bubble gum and chocolate candy cane," Primack added.
It also is notable that electronic cigarettes are marketed on television.
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.
Unlike other forms of nicotine, such as smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes are designed to mimic the behavioural and sensory act of cigarette smoking, allowing the user to become accustomed to the act of smoking.
It is important to continue surveillance of both e-cigarettes and tobacco products among young people so policymakers can establish research-informed regulations to help prevent e-cigarettes from becoming gateway products on the road to youth smoking, the authors emphasised.
The results were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.