Electronic Cigarettes: New Route to Smoking Addiction For Adolescents

By Elizabeth Fernandez    |   UCSF.edu | November 25, 2013

Electronic Cigarettes: New Route to Smoking Addiction For Adolescents

E-cigarettes have been widely promoted as a way for people to quit smoking conventional cigarettes. 

Now, in the first study of its kind, UC San Francisco researchers are reporting that, at the point in time they studied, youth using e-cigarettes were more likely to be trying to quit, but also were less likely to have stopped smoking and were smoking more, not less.

“We are witnessing the beginning of a new phase of the nicotine epidemic and a new route to nicotine addiction for kids,” according to senior author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF.  

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that look like cigarettes and deliver an aerosol of nicotine and other chemicals. Promoted as safer alternatives to cigarettes and smoking cessation aids, e-cigarettes are rapidly gaining popularity among adults and youth in the United States and around the world. The devices are largely unregulated, with no effective controls on marketing them to minors.  

In the UCSF study, the researchers assessed e-cigarette use among youth in Korea, where the devices are marketed much the way they are in the U.S. The study analyzed smoking among some 75,000 Korean youth.

The study appears online in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Our paper raises serious concern about the effects of the Wild West marketing of e-cigarettes on youth,” said Glantz.

E-Cigarattes Gain Ground in Youth Market

Despite industry claims that it markets only to adults, e-cigarettes have achieved substantial penetration into the youth market.

In the U.S., the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the majority of adolescent e-cigarette users also smoke regular cigarettes, and that the percentage of middle and high school students who use e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. An estimated 1.78 million U.S. students had used the devices as of 2012, said the CDC.

Read more at UCSF.edu