Health & Science

Teenagers Are Combining Cigarette Smoking With Use Of Electronic Cigarettes

A new study of teenagers reveals an increase in e-cigarette use over a one-year period, and has re-ignited debates over the potential value and danger of electronic cigarettes.

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Different types of electronic cigarettes [Wikipedia/Izord]

A new study of teenagers reveals an increase in e-cigarette use over a one-year period, and has re-ignited debates over the potential value and danger of electronic cigarettes.  The study found teens who smoked were more likely to try e-cigarettes, and vice versa: teens who used the new devices were more likely to use regular tobacco cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes have many names: alternative nicotine delivery devices, e-cigarettes, hookah pens, or vape pipes. (Most users refer to the act of inhaling the nicotine vapor from an e-cigarette as “vaping” instead of “smoking.”)

Electronic cigarettes sound good in theory because they deliver a nicotine hit without the tar and chemical residues of a regular cigarette.

But there isn’t much research to support the claim that the vapors are safe to inhale, or that they even help smokers quit. E-cigarettes have varying amounts of nicotine and other liquid chemicals in their cartridges. The liquid is converted to an inhalable vapor through a battery-powered device.

Now many researchers are concerned that e-cigarettes might be a gateway drug for young people, eventually hooking them on regular tobacco products.

Dr. Alex Prokhorov of MD Anderson said teenagers love the sleek devices.

“They’re very much curious, they’re very interested in trying something new,” Prokhorov said.  “They’re very interested in technology, and that’s a really interesting, neat piece of technology.”

A recent study from the journal JAMA Pediatrics examined the relationship between tobacco use and e-cigarettes among teenagers. It parsed data from a CDC survey of tobacco use among children in grades 6-12.

The study found teens who smoked were more likely to try e-cigarettes, and vice versa – teens who used the new devices were more likely to use regular tobacco cigarettes.

The cause-and-effect is not clear and the survey did not ask the teens about their decision-making processes.

But Prokhorov says the study doesn’t show any apparent value to e-cigarettes: they don’t seem to help kids quit tobacco or prevent them from smoking. 

The FDA is expected to release regulations on e-cigarettes soon, but Prokhorov said they need to hurry up.

Regulation would presumably included prohibitions on mass marketing that have long been in place for tobacco cigarettes, such as television ads. The FDA might also bans additives such as sweet or fruity flavors that appeal to kids.

“There’s absolutely no way that this product escapes FDA regulation,” said Prokhorov. “It’s a product that delivers nicotine and all products that deliver nicotine, they need to be regulated.”

For now there is just a patchwork of regulations among states and cities. Los Angeles was the latest city to ban e-cigarettes in public places like parks and restaurants. New York, Boston and Chicago also have similar rules.

Houston has no such restrictions.  Texas has not passed state-wide regulations either, a situation which makes it easy for minors to buy e-cigarettes. 

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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