E-cigarettes may be recruiting a new generation of young smokers who otherwise might not pick up the habit at all, a new US study has warned. E-cigarette use among teenagers is growing in the US, and Hawaii teens take up e-cigarette use at higher rates than their mainland counterparts, researchers found.
Data from the study showed that nearly 30 per cent of the more than 1,900 teens surveyed in Hawaii had tried e-cigarettes, and of those, 17 per cent were using e-cigarettes only.
The overall rate is about three times larger than previously reported in US studies in 2011 and 2012, which showed rates of 4.7 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. Additionally, very few adolescents in the national studies are e-cigarette only users, researchers said. The Hawaii teens were 14 and 15 years old and surveyed in public and private schools in 2013.
The survey questions assessed e-cigarette and cigarette use, alcohol and marijuana use, and psychosocial risk factors for substance use. Teenagers who used only e-cigarettes were intermediate in levels of risk and protective factors between nonusers and those who used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
This raises a question about whether e-cigarettes are recruiting low-risk youth (who would otherwise not try smoking) to tobacco product use, researchers said. Researchers also found that 12 per cent used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes; 3 per cent used cigarettes only; 68 per cent did not use either e-cigarettes or cigarettes.
They also found that 96 per cent of the participants were aware of e-cigarettes and 67 per cent considered e-cigarettes to be healthier than cigarettes. Dr Thomas Wills, the interim director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Centre's Prevention and Control Programme, said researchers are not sure why the rate of e-cigarette use is so high among teens in Hawaii.
"The marketing is very aggressive here," he said, adding that manufacturers place ads at venues such as movie theatres that are accessible to teenagers. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.