E-Cigarettes May Contribute to Teen Smoking

E-Cigarettes May Contribute to Teen Smoking

E-Cigarettes May Contribute to Teen Smoking

E-Cigarettes May Contribute to Teen SmokingE-cigarettes are making a big wave in the smoking world. Originally designed to help smokers kick the habit, these devices are now becoming popular as permanent substitutes for smoking actual cigarettes. As sales of e-cigarettes grow quickly and are expected to eventually surpass the sales of real cigarettes, experts worry about how they will impact young people. While proponents have argued that e-cigarettes should keep teens safer by giving them an alternative to cigarettes, recent research has found that the devices may have the opposite effect. 

What Are E-Cigarettes?

Smokers face an uphill battle when trying to quit. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man. Unfortunately, the habit of smoking to get that nicotine fix is extremely detrimental to health. Smoke from a cigarette contains hundreds of substances in addition to nicotine, many of which are cancer causing. Makers of e-cigarettes claim that their devices can be a safe alternative to smoking and a way for the addicted to wean themselves from nicotine dependence.

An e-cigarette is operated by a battery and resembles a real cigarette. The battery heats up a liquid with dissolved nicotine. The resulting vapor is inhaled and the user gets nicotine without the smoke and all the additives of a cigarette. Manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes are completely safe and that the secondhand “smoke” poses no risk to anyone nearby.

Teens and E-Cigarettes

Critics of e-cigarettes cite several reasons for being wary of these devices. For example, although their makers claim they are safe, we really don’t know how true that statement is. More research is needed to determine any risks they pose to users and bystanders. Another concern is teen access to e-cigarettes and the fact that this may encourage smoking among young people.

A new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco has found a link between e-cigarettes and teen smoking. The results showed that among teens who smoked cigarettes, those who also used e-cigarettes were actually less likely to give up the habit than those who did not use the electronic devices. Stated another way, the research indicates that teenage e-cigarette smokers are seven times more likely to smoke real cigarettes than their peers not using e-cigarettes.

Researchers concluded from their study that e-cigarettes do not discourage teens from smoking and that they might actually encourage smoking in young people. Critics of the study, and proponents of the benefits of e-cigarettes, say that the correlation between e-cigarettes and real cigarettes does not prove that one causes the other. Certainly more research needs to be done to get at the truth of the impact of e-cigarettes on teens.

Teen smoking is a real problem, even as overall rates of smoking continue to decline. Since 1965, the rate of smoking in the U.S. has declined from 43 to 18 percent, which is a major win. Still, thousands of teens try smoking for the first time every single day. Furthermore, the number of teens using e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012 and sales of e-cigarettes hit two billion dollars in 2013.

We don’t yet have a complete understanding of the safety of e-cigarettes. It may be an improvement to see these devices replace traditional cigarettes, but there may be harmful chemicals in the liquids used in e-cigarettes. The information available on e-cigarette safety is simply not conclusive at this point. Until the devices are better understood, it is in the interest of public health to keep both e-cigarettes and real cigarettes out of the hands and mouths of teens and adolescents.

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