After years of declining rates reported in teenager tobacco use, could e-cigarettes lead to a “renormalization” of the smoking habit? A recent study published in Pediatrics shows that might just be the case, as figures report that the devices present a certain appeal to the underage user.
According to the survey conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California, roughly 40 percent of adolescent users of e-cigarettes have never tried tobacco, debunking the supporters of the e-cigarettes who say that these devices help teens quit regular cigarettes.
Raising even more concerns, the report revealed a positive feedback from roughly 90 percent of the teenagers who are regular users of e-cigarettes. The study deals with how challenging it is for public health officials to keep nicotine – in all of its forms – out of the hands of teens.
Senior architect of the study Jessica Barrington-Trimis, a researcher with the University of Southern California, explains that a positive social environment around e-cigarettes only encourages teenagers to see them as the norm, and thus the fight against them is nearly lost.
Researchers from the USC have surveyed more than 2,000 individuals, 11th- and 12th-graders from Southern California, with diversified ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Considering that more than 40 percent of the responders are e-cigarette users who never smoked a traditional cigarette, the researchers believe these devices are drawing in a different demographic of teens: those who probably wouldn’t have touched a traditional tobacco product.
The study also highlighted the significance of a teen’s environment when it comes to use of e-cigarettes. It turns out that roughly 34 percent of the adolescents who use e-cigarettes either live with another e-cigarette user or have a friend who uses it in their entourage.
This was a very important discovery, as the risk of becoming a e-cigarette user increased with 104 percent when the adolescent had three or four close friends who used the devices, compared to the teens who lived in an e-cig-free environment.
Even though e-cigarettes have been around since 2007, it was only in recent years that they became more popular. According to the most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey, its prevalence has tripled among high school students between 2013 and 2014. This study has only offered more evidence that e-cigarettes have almost become “the norm” in such a short period.
Studies have yet to be conducted to establish how harmful these devices are, but according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the user is often exposed to nicotine – which is addiction-inducing – and to various chemicals and carcinogens. That’s why state legislators are working hard on enacting restrictions on smoking, such as prohibiting e-cigs in public spaces and raising the legal age for sales.
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