Nov. 16, 2017—Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) with higher nicotine levels may pose a serious
health risk to teenagers. A new, small study suggests that teens who use
them may be more likely to vape more and smoke more traditional cigarettes.
Teens, nicotine and smoking
According to the researchers, 11 percent of 10th graders in the U.S. in
2016 reported using e-cigs in the last 30 days. To learn more about this
use, the researchers looked at survey results from 181 teens who vape
in the Los Angeles area. The students reported their habits in 10th grade
and then six months later in 11th grade.
Not all e-cigs contain nicotine. But at the start of the study, about 60
percent of participants said they had used e-cigs with the highly addictive
substance within the last 30 days. Many of the students in the study also
smoked regular cigarettes.
Teens who vaped higher concentrations of nicotine were more likely to vape
and smoke more regularly—and to smoke more cigarettes per day—than
their peers who didn't use nicotine in their e-cigs. This was true
at both the beginning and the end of the study.
The amount of nicotine was the key factor. After six months, with each
increase in the nicotine level, the odds that the teens would be vaping
more than two days a month—as opposed to having quit vaping—were
1.73 times greater.
Intense cigarette use at younger ages is tied to increased nicotine dependence
later in life, according to the study authors. Exposure to higher levels
of the substance in early adolescence also increases the risk of dependence.
And using nicotine may also affect teens' brains, the authors said,
citing previous research. Teens who vape may be prone to poor decision
making and risk taking behaviors, like choosing to vape and smoke more.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration does regulate e-cigs as tobacco products. And the researchers feel the
study provides evidence in favor of developing policies about nicotine
concentration in e-cigs.
While more studies are needed to find out if vaping causes smoking, the
researchers believe such policies could affect the use of tobacco products
A main limitation of the study was the small sample size.
The study was published in
What parents should know
E-cigs don't look like traditional cigarettes. But that doesn't
mean they're safe. According to a patient information page published
with the study, here's what you need to know:
- The liquid in e-cigs and the vapor that's inhaled contain harmful chemicals,
including a component of antifreeze that can be poisonous. Carcinogens
are in there too.
- The nicotine in e-cigs is addictive. It also harms brain development.
- Secondhand vapor from e-cigs can harm growing lungs.
- E-cigs aren't currently recommended as a way to quit smoking.
- E-cigs have occasionally exploded, causing burning and fires.
- Since e-cigs are fairly new, the long-term health effects aren't known.
The page suggests discussing with teens how nicotine companies target them
with sweet flavors and hip advertising. Point out that not using these
products can be a way to "rebel."
Talk to your teen about nicotine and vaping. Start a conversation by taking our
e-cig quiz together.