The use of e-cigarettes is considered as an alternative to cigarette smoking, as studies have shown it curbed the prevalence of traditional smoking by the thousands in 2015.
However, some experts are still concerned about whether the use of e-cigarettes can truly be effective in cigarette smoking cessation or can only become a gateway to the habit, particularly for adolescents.
For instance, a report in June revealed that teens who vape are more likely to resort to cigarette smoking within two years.
"We're concerned that kids who experiment with e-cigarettes may be moving onto other types of tobacco products," said Jessica Barrington-Trimis, a researcher from University of Southern California.
Can Teen Vaping Lead To Heavy Smoking?
Now, in a new study published in the journal JAMA, a group of researchers in the United States found that teenagers who vape frequently are highly likely to develop the habit of heavy cigarette smoking later in life.
The research team examined records on 3,804 students from 10 high schools in Los Angeles who took part in two surveys. The first survey was conducted during the fall of 10th grade, while the second survey was taken during the spring.
Although the overall prevalence of smoking and vaping was low, experts found that one in every five students who admitted to smoking e-cigarettes regularly at the beginning of the study eventually smoked conventional cigarettes at least thrice by the end of the survey.
About 12 percent of students with regular vaping habits admitted to smoking cigarettes at least one day every month. Meanwhile, at least 1 percent of teens who have never tried vaping reported cigarette smoking one day each month during the end of the research.
Additionally, the research team found that more frequent vaping is linked to smoking two or more traditional cigarettes on days when participants smoked.
Some of the study's limitations, however, are the short-term follow-up period and the researchers' reliance on teenagers to accurately report and recall their use of cigarettes.
Prevalence Of Teen Vaping
Adam Leventhal, lead author of the study, said teenagers who vape not only experiment with cigarettes, but they also have higher likelihood of becoming regular cigarette smokers.
He said the report shows the first time that vaping among teens has been associated with heavier smoking patterns and the multiple use of cigarettes in a day.
"E-cigarettes do not prevent teens from advancing to smoking and may possibly do the opposite," said Leventhal.
Dr. Brian Parmack, an expert from University of Pittsburgh who did not participate in the research, said the findings may indicate that vaping became a "bridge to smoking."
He said teens who may not have otherwise smoked conventional cigarettes started with flavored e-cigarettes and then transitioned to cigarette smoking. He added that as more evidence emerge, there is more support for this explanation.