Study Links Teen E-Cigarette Use With Smoking Later in Life

Electronic cigarettes

Over the last several years, e-cigarette use has skyrocketed — particularly among teens and young adults. However, use of e-cigarettes during one’s teenage years may lead to a higher likelihood of smoking tobacco cigarettes, a new study has found.

According to, researchers observed a group of teens who had just entered ninth grade and found that those who regularly used e-cigarettes were more likely to report experimenting with tobacco products both six months and one year afterward than their classmates who didn’t try vaping.

“The study found that 14-year-olds who had used e-cigarettes for recreational purposes were four times more likely to start smoking at least one harmful tobacco product — including regular cigarettes, a hookah tobacco water pipe and/or cigars — over the next year,” explained Adam Leventhal, associate professor of preventive medicine and psychology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and one of the study’s co-authors.

The news may be troubling to some, given e-cigarettes’ stratospheric rise in popularity. Annual sales of these devices rose from just 50,000 in 2008 to an amazing 3.5 million in 2012. It’s now estimated that one in five adult smokers has tried e-cigarettes.

Currently, the sale of e-cigarettes, whose liquid normally contains nicotine, is not prohibited to anyone under 18 years of age on a national level. Last year, the FDA proposed new regulations that would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but these rules haven’t been passed. Some states have already enacted bans on these devices for teens, however.

And while e-cigarettes are typically considered a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, this study suggests there is a danger for using them as a teenager, said Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“(The report) is the strongest evidence to date that e-cigarettes might pose a health hazard by encouraging adolescents to start smoking conventional tobacco products,” Rigotti said.

Still, there’s no definitive proof that e-cigarette use is a direct cause of later use of tobacco products, according to U.S. News and World Report. Leventhal said more research will be required to determine if e-cigarettes are truly the culprit behind tobacco use.

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