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Raising Vaping Age May Increase Teen Smoking

Raising vaping age may give rise to more teens smoking, a new study has found.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine suggest that imposing age restrictions to people who could legally purchase electronic nicotine devices (ENDS) may unintentionally boost teen smoking.

"We should regulate tobacco products proportionate to their risks, and e-cigarette evidence suggests they're less risky products," says study author Dr. Michael Pesko, "While there's some risk, it would be a mistake to regulate them the same way we regulate cigarettes."

The Popularity of E-cigarettes

Statistics show that e-cigarettes are now more popular than conventional cigarettes among teenagers. In a 2014 study by the University of Michigan, 13.4 percent of teens chose e-cigarettes and only 9.2 percent chose traditional cigarettes.

The popularity of e-cigarettes may be attributed to claims that vaping is less hazardous to health than traditional tobacco smoking. In a recent British government report, scientists say vaping is only 5 percent as harmful as cigarette. Despite this, e-cigarettes still carry some risks.

Having Age Restrictions

With the rise of studies showing that vaping do not come without health risks, 47 states have already set age restrictions when it comes to purchasing ENDS.

Pesko and colleagues think that these protocols may also have impacts on other related substance use. With this, they looked into whether ENDS are actually substitutes for marijuana and other tobacco products.

Vaping: Substitute For Related Substance Use

The team examined data about the 2007 to 2013 adolescent use of marijuana and tobacco from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. They particularly looked at whether age restrictions in vaping would result in teenagers resorting to other smoking options.

The results show that there was indeed a rise of 11.7 percent in teen cigarette smoking use after the state imposed age-restrictions on vaping.

Such finding may mean that e-cigarettes may serve as an alternative to traditional cigarettes among teenagers. For example, adolescents who live in a state without age restrictions on vaping are more likely to quit tobacco smoking than those who live in states where they cannot buy these electronic devices.

In the end, the authors say that their work suggests that it may be better to impose age restrictions on traditional cigarettes only and not on e-cigarettes.

The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine on Thursday, March 10.

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