E-cigarettes could be extremely dangerous to teenagers, who are now more likely to smoke using the electronic devices than regular cigarettes. Researchers believe e-cigarettes may be leading to tobacco addiction among youth who would not normally smoke tobacco.
Investigators quizzed 1,941 high school students in Hawaii, asking about their smoking habits, as well as examining risk factors for the habit. These included parental support, academic involvement, rates of smoking among friends, and prevalence toward sensation-seeking.
Around 68 percent of the teenagers surveyed did not smoke tobacco at all, researchers determined. Of those who do smoke, 17 percent use e-cigarettes, three percent consume regular cigarettes, and 12 percent used both methods to ingest nicotine.
Teenagers in the highest-risk categories were most apt to smoke paper cigarettes or use both delivery methods. Those with the lowest risk factors were most likely to utilize e-cigarettes. This suggests to researchers that teens who normally would not consume tobacco partake because of electronic cigarettes. Those teens who smoke e-cigarettes were also more likely than others to believe that the electronic devices were safer than traditional cigarettes.
E-cigarettes work by turning nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor, which can be inhaled. This process leads many people, including teens, to believe the use of the devices is less dangerous than paper cigarettes, which burn tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that little is known about the devices, including how much nicotine is delivered by the electronic systems. The agency may soon move to ban sales of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18.
Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) by teenagers is becoming far more prevalent in recent years, according to the American Lung Association.
"ENDS aerosol is not harmless water vapor; it can contain nicotine and other toxins. Exposure to nicotine can harm adolescent brain development and can be toxic to fetuses. The standard for protecting the health of children and bystanders should be clean air, free of toxic secondhand smoke as well as ENDS aerosol," Brian King, a senior scientific advisor at the Office on Smoking and Health, managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said.
Over 16 million teenagers under the age of 18 live in states where e-cigarette sales are not restricted, a situation which could lead to greater abuse of tobacco, the CDC reported. Just three states - Utah, North Dakota, and New Jersey, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in public places such as restaurants.
Risk Factors for Exclusive E-Cigarette Use and Dual E-Cigarette Use and Tobacco Use in Adolescents was published in the journal Pediatrics, detailing the study.