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Vaping IS a gateway to smoking: Teenagers who use e-cigarettes ‘are six times more likely to smoke tobacco’

• Study based on smoking habits of 300 teenagers over a two-year period
• It found 40% who vaped in previous year had also tried tobacco products
• Devices banned for sale to under 18’s in US and UK due to health concerns
• Previous research found devices expose developing brains to nicotine

Teenagers who vape are six times more likely to take up smoking than those who have never tried it, scientists have warned.

Those who experiment with e-cigarettes are at higher risk of smoking within two years than those who have never tried the device, a study found.

The investigation, which looked at the smoking habits of 18-year-olds, adds weight to the argument electronic cigarettes can act as a gateway to tobacco products for teenagers.

Jessica Barrington-Trimis, lead author of the study from University of Southern Carolina, said she wanted to investigate the link between vaping and tobacco use.

She said: ‘We’re concerned that kids who experiment with e-cigarettes may be moving on to other types of tobacco products, like combustible cigarettes, which are arguably a lot more dangerous.’

E-cigarettes are handheld devices that vaporise a fluid, usually involving nicotine and another more attractive flavour.

Although experts agree that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking tobacco, some are concerned that they are also used as a fashionable ‘lifestyle’ habit for people who have never smoked.

In the latest study, researchers used surveys conducted by USC on 300 teenagers in 2014, with around half of those asked saying they had previously tried an e-cigarette.

A follow-up survey a year later discovered that 40 per cent of those who had vaped the year before had also tried regular cigarettes.

Those who vaped were six times more likely to try tobacco products, the study found

This compared to about 11 per cent of those who said they had not tried an e-cigarette in the prior year’s survey.

The survey participants were at least 18 years old by the second survey.

After adjusting the statistics around gender, ethnicity, grade and parental education, scientists calculated teens who tried vaping were six times more likely to take up smoking than those who never tried.

When looking at teenagers who said they had no intention to smoke on the first survey, researchers found the risk of moving from vaping to regular cigarettes by the next year was 10 times greater.

However, Dr Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, said he had concerns over the study.

He argued there was no proof vaping had prompted the teens to take up smoking as the initial surveys did not determine how many times the teenagers had used e-cigarettes..

Dr Siegel said: ‘What’s probably happening is these kids did not become regular vapers, they turned to smoking.

‘If they turned into regular vapers, they wouldn’t have turned to smoking.’

The US Food and Drug Administration began a crackdown on e-cigarettes last month by banning under 18’s from purchasing the devices, following the same rules imposed by UK government.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2015 that the devices be regulated as tobacco products due to concerns they would lead teens to regular cigarettes and also expose their developing brains to nicotine.

Previous research found vaping is more dangerous than experts once thought and can cause infertility.

The devices contain one million times more harmful substances than polluted air – including cancer-causing substances and flame retardants, some experts claim.

Furthermore, scientists from the Baptist University in Hong Kong discovered for the first time some contain toxins linked to fertility problems and fetal development issues.

The latest study by USC was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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