Friday, March 14, 2014

Electronic Cigarettes May Be Gateway to Traditional Smoking Among Youth

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are marketed to help people quit smoking regular cigarettes and subside nicotine addiction, but a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics demonstrates that it may be doing the opposite in adolescents.

Researchers from the Center for Tobacco Control Research an Education at the University of California San Francisco conducted the first analysis of the relationship between e-cigarette use and conventional smoking among adolescents in the United States. Data were gathered from the National Tobacco Youth Survey, which included nearly 40,000 middle- and high-school-aged youth. The analysis revealed that e-cigarette use among students doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 3.1 percent to 6.5 percent. In addition, use of e-cigarettes was associated with increased risk to begin conventional cigarette smoking.

Jill Williams, M.D., director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who was not involved with the study, expressed to Psychiatric News that these findings are concerning since the rates of conventional smoking had been declining to record lows. 

“Behavioral health professionals, including psychiatrists, should do more to assess and treat their adolescent and adult patients for tobacco dependence, just as they would for any other substance use disorder," said Williams. "The tobacco industry has a history of marketing 'safer' products to the public, and we should remain skeptical until this is proven with scientific information.” 

Williams concluded that if these products continue to go unregulated, the popularity of e-cigarettes has the potential to undo decades of progress in denormalizing tobacco use and making it more attractive to those with nicotine addiction.

(Image: Leszek Glasner)


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