In a finding unlikely to shock, researchers have discovered that people who smoke e-cigarettes are likely to also be regular cigarette smokers. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that e-cigarettes are less of a healthy alternative, and more of a different means to the same end.
Health experts had hoped e-cigarette use would curb the popularity of traditional cigarettes. Though both products contain the addictive substance nicotine, e-cigarettes do not contain the multiple other harmful chemicals found in regular cigarettes.
The study found that adolescents who used e-cigarettes are more likely than their non-smoking peers to use regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. Nearly 40,000 middle and high school students were surveyed over the course of two years about their smoking and tobacco habits as part of the National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Through the information gathered in the survey, researchers found those students who reported smoking e-cigarettes, either in the past or currently, were more likely to experiment with regular cigarettes. They are also more likely to smoke on a regular basis and be a current cigarette smoker. Those who reported smoking regular cigarettes said they linked trying e-cigarettes to being an established smoker.
E-cigarettes, for the students surveyed at least, have become a status symbol. To them, you know you’re an established smoker when you’ve tried an e-cigarette. It’s almost as though the students surveyed view e-cigarettes as the new cool thing, like the latest iPhone or designer clothes.
The news isn’t all bad about e-cigarette use. Students who reported smoking e-cigarettes often reported wanting to quit within the next year, though they are also less likely to stay away from cigarettes completely.
The CDC released numbers last fall that showed e-cigarette use among middle and high school students had doubled from 3.3 percent in 2011 to 6.8 percent in 2012. Though the percentage of students using e-cigarettes is still small, many health experts are asking for something to be done about them before use expands even further.
Some places are even going so far as to include them in smoking bans. Los Angeles is the most recent city to do so, banning e-cigarettes alongside regular ones.