Low cost, desire to quit smoking play into youth e-cigarette use

Low cost, desire to quit smoking play into youth e-cigarette use


Teens and adolescents who used e-cigarettes for more than six months cited low cost and the desire to quit smoking as two of the biggest reasons for their habit, according to a study by Yale University researchers.

The researchers’ goal was to gain insight into the appeal e-cigarettes have for young people, said postdoctoral fellow Krysten Bold, lead author of the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

“We really wanted to better understand why youth use e-cigarettes, because we hoped it would provide guidance” in developing prevention and cessation programs, she said.

About 16 percent of U.S. high school students were using e-cigarettes in 2015, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes are typically battery-operated devices that allow users to inhale a vapor containing nicotine or other substances. That’s why the practice of using e-cigarettes is often called vaping.

Though some use them as a tool to help quit regular cigarettes, critics — including the American Lung Association — have pointed out that e-cigarettes can contain carcinogens, lung irritants and other harmful chemicals.

In 2013, the Yale team surveyed Connecticut middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes and asked what drew them to the devices. The students said they were first attracted to vaping for many reasons, including curiosity, different available flavors, and use by their friends.

The researchers returned six months later to see who was still using e-cigarettes. Those who had said they were initially attracted to e-cigarettes because of the low-cost or because they wanted to quit smoking traditional cigarettes were more likely to still be vaping.

In fact, those who reported trying e-cigarettes to quit smoking were 14 times more likely to keep vaping. But the study also found that 80 percent of youth who said they first tried vaping to help quit smoking were still smoking cigarettes six months later.

The research speaks to one of the biggest fallacies about e-cigarettes, said Maryellen Bolcer, health promotion specialist for the Teen Smokestoppers program, based at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes want people to think that they’re safer than regular cigarettes.

“They are not safer,” she said. “And they don’t help people quit smoking.”

Smokestoppers is a youth smoking cessation program which, last year, addressed 26,000 teens in 100 schools, Bolcer said. She has long maintained that e-cigarettes can be just as dangerous as regular cigarettes, mainly because so many of them contain nicotine. “All these companies are trying to do is get young people addicted to nicotine,” Bolcer said.

Bold said she’d like to see lawmakers attempt to stamp out e-cigarette use by raising taxes on the products, or have their use restricted, much like the limitations on traditional smoking.

But researchers want to learn more before making formal recommendations. “There’s so much we don’t know at this point about e-cigarettes,” she said. “So much more research is needed.”


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