Teen vapers more likely to smoke when older

3 minute read

Young teenagers who smoke e-cigs and regular cigarettes are at risk of becoming “entrenched” into smoking tobacco.

Young teenagers who smoke both e-cigarettes and normal cigarettes are more likely than just cigarette smokers to continue smoking into late adolescence, US and UK research suggests.

“Those who engaged in any e-cigarette use before age 15 were more likely to be smokers as well as frequent tobacco smokers by age 18,” researchers wrote in Tobacco Control.

“There was no evidence that use of e-cigarettes disrupted tobacco cigarette smoking youth,” they wrote.

The observational study included 1800 US and UK teenagers who had smoked cigarettes before age 15. More than half of teenagers who smoked cigarettes before the age of 15 also used e-cigarettes.

According to the study, the odds of smoking as older teenagers were significantly higher among those who vaped compared to those who didn’t.

“Across both data sets, early smoking youth who did not use e-cigarettes were more likely to report no nicotine use of either type in late adolescence,” the researchers said. 

“Among youth who started smoking early in adolescence, early e-cigarette adopters were more likely to become entrenched into tobacco use and in heavier smoking than those who smoked but had not used e-cigarettes.”

The authors said that tobacco control efforts aimed at teens should consider risks posed by e-cigarettes for early starters.

“Comprehensive steps must be taken to reduce adolescent access to e-cigarettes, particularly to reduce the likelihood of entrenchment among youth who initiate smoking early,” the researchers said.

The researchers found that for teenagers who smoked tobacco and also used e-cigarettes in their early teens, the odds of continuing to smoke in their late teens were 45% higher than for non-vapers in the US and 119% higher than for tobacco-smoking non-vapers in the UK.

The data showed that 61% of the UK e-cigarette users smoked tobacco in late adolescence compared with 50% of those who did not use e-cigarettes.

And 42% of the US e-cigarette users smoked tobacco in late adolescence compared with 24% of those who did not use e-cigarettes.

Early smokers who also vaped were also more likely to be frequent smokers in late adolescence compared with those who smoked early in their teens but didn’t vape.

They also found that there was more cigarette smoking among UK youth but more exclusive vaping among US teenagers.

The researchers said while their findings supported the “entrenchment hypothesis” they didn’t support the “disruption hypothesis”. This was the idea that using e-cigarettes early in the teen years led to a reduction or total elimination of tobacco smoking later in adolescence.

Tobacco Control 2023, online 18 April

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