BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- A new study shows that teenagers who use e-cigarettes, a practice called vaping, have a higher probability of using combustible tobacco products than teens who have used neither.
E-cigarettes have grown in popularity as an alternative to smoking cigarettes because they are thought to be less detrimental to health than traditional cigarettes or other products that involve lighting tobacco on fire. E-cigarette is a catch-all term for the multitude of devices used for vaping flavored nicotine liquids.
"While teen tobacco use has fallen in recent years, this study confirms that we should continue to vigilantly watch teen smoking patterns," said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a press release. "Parents and teens should recognize that although e-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic effects of regular cigarettes, they do carry a risk of addiction."
Researchers compared tobacco use in 222 teenagers who had used a vapor device with that of 2,308 teens who had not used tobacco or e-cigarettes before going into 9th grade. The participants all were attendees of 10 public schools in Los Angeles. They were surveyed about smoking and vaping over the course of their lifetime, as well as the 6 months before the surveys.
During the first 6 months after first being surveyed, 30.7 percent of teens who had vaped started to use combustible tobacco products, such as cigarettes, blunts, full size cigars, and hookahs, while 8.1 percent of those who did not vape had tried tobacco products.
Over the course of following 6 months, as they prepared to enter 10th grade, researchers found that 25.2 percent of e-cigarette users had also used tobacco, while 9.3 percent of non-vaping teens smoked tobacco.
"Adolescents who enjoy the experience of inhaling nicotine via e-cigarettes could be more apt to experiment with other nicotine products, including smokeable tobacco," said Dr. Adam M. Leventhal, an associate professor at the University of Southern California Los Angeles. "While we cannot conclude that e-cigarette use directly leads to smoking, this research raises concerns that recent increases in youth e-cigarette use could ultimately perpetuate the epidemic of smoking-related illness."