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E-cigarettes make teenagers four times more likely to move on to real smoking, health experts warn

Teenagers who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to end up smoking ‘real’ cigarettes, according to new research. American researchers said unregulated electronic cigarettes which are advertised on TV and in magazines serve as a gateway to smoking for teens and young adults. Results showed 38 per cent of e-cigarette users had started smoking traditional cigarettes within a year compared to just ten per cent who had not used an e-cig. Smoking an electronic cigarette makes the user more likely to start using real tobacco (pic posed by model) Recent research suggested that vaping could be a way of breaking the habit and could save the NHS millions.

But the latest study indicates that because e-cigs deliver nicotine more slowly than traditional cigarettes, it allows users to advance to cigarette smoking as they become tolerant of nicotine side effects.

They are also designed to mimic the behavioural and sensory act of cigarette smoking, allowing the user to become accustomed to the act of smoking. Because they are not banned from public spaces, e-cigs may be seen as potentially renormalising smoking after decades of public health efforts to demonise it. And the flavoured smokes may simply appeal to teenagers. Dr Brian Primack of the University of Pittsburgh said: ‘E-cigarettes are not subject to many of the laws that regulate traditional cigarettes, such as age limits on sales, taxation and labeling requirements. ‘They also come in youth-oriented flavourings that laws have limited in traditional cigarettes, such as apple bubble gum and chocolate candy cane.’ Professor of pediatrics Dr James Sargent at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth added: ‘It also is notable that electronic cigarettes are marketed on television. ‘This represents the first time in more than 40 years that a smoking-related device has been advertised on this medium, which has tremendous reach and could drive appeal of these products among youth.’

The study published in JAMA Pediatrics was the first to assess this relation in a national US sample of youngster, and to include people older than 18 among its participants. It analysed data on a national sample of nearly 700 nonsmokers aged 16 to 26 surveyed in 2012 and again in 2013 through the Dartmouth Media, Advertising, and Health Study. All participants were considered ‘non-susceptible’ to initiating traditional cigarette smoking at the beginning of the study, because they had responded ‘definitely no’ when asked if they would try a cigarette offered by a friend or believed they would smoke a cigarette within the next year.

By the next year, 38 per cent of the baseline e-cigarette users had initiated traditional cigarette smoking.

In comparison, only 10 per cent of the youths who were not baseline e-cigarette users started smoking traditional cigarettes which Dr Primack said ‘these differences remained statistically significant.’ Dr Sargent said: ‘However, recent data suggest that more youth than ever are using e-cigarettes and that as many half of these adolescents are not smoking traditional cigarettes ‘Therefore, it is important to continue surveillance of both e-cigarettes and tobacco products among young people so policymakers can establish research-informed regulations to help prevent e-cigarettes from becoming gateway products on the road to youth smoking.’

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