MONDAY, Jan. 23, 2017 (HealthDay News) — There’s no evidence that e-cigarettes are driving down teen smoking — and, in fact, they may be drawing in kids who otherwise would never have smoked, a new study suggests.
Researchers said the findings add to concerns about teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine — along with flavoring and other chemicals — through a vapor rather than tobacco smoke. They are often marketed as a “safer” alternative to smoking, and a bridge toward quitting.
But little is actually known about their health effects, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
In recent years, the devices have been soaring in popularity among U.S kids. A federal report found that between 2013 and 2014, e-cigarette use tripled among high school and middle school students nationwide.
Still, cigarette smoking has continued to decline. And some have argued that the rise in kids’ e-cigarette use might actually be feeding the decrease in their smoking rate, said Lauren Dutra, the lead researcher on the new study.
Based on her findings, however, she said that’s not the case.
“We found no evidence to support that idea,” said Dutra, who was a fellow with the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the time of the study.
In fact, the study found, many kids who used e-cigarettes had never smoked — and were actually “low risk” for starting.
“These aren’t the kids we would normally expect to take up smoking,” said Dutra, who is now a social scientist with the non-profit research group RTI International.
The study findings are based on an ongoing federal survey tracking tobacco use among U.S. kids in grades six through 12.
Overall, students’ smoking rates dropped between 2004 and 2014, from nearly 16 percent to just over 6 percent. The decline was steady, with no signs of speeding up after 2009 — when e-cigarettes came onto the scene.
If the devices really were driving kids away from cigarettes, Dutra said, you’d expect to see an acceleration in the smoking decline.
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