Healthcast : A Study on Teenagers & Tobacco Use

Henrietta Strickland
January 12, 2018

Be aware that this study does not provide proof of causality.

"We've seen the prevalence of youth cigarette smoking decrease over the past 20 years, but the rising popularity of these non-cigarette products is a fairly recent development that poses new questions for tobacco control and youth smoking prevention", lead study author Benjamin Chaffee, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, told CBS News. When first interviewed at ages 12-17, roughly half of the group reported that they had used e-cigs, hookah, snuff, or other non-cigarette tobacco products, but never cigarettes; the rest said they had always been completely tobacco-free.

The findings are also important because some of the novel tobacco products have especially high rates of use among adolescents in vulnerable populations.

Among the small proportion of teens who had tried e-cigarettes at the start of the study, however, 19 percent had become smokers a year later, as had about 18 percent of hookah users.

"We have a public rhetoric around e-cigarettes that's really strong, but we should be thinking about other products", said Shannon Lea Watkins, one of the study's authors and a postdoctoral scholar at the UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. "And even if kids use these products and don't convert to cigarette smoking, it's not the only relevant health concern".

Chaffee also observed that all the different forms of non-cigarette tobacco explored in the study were linked to the same increase in risk of future cigarette smoking. About 4 percent of teens had vaped at the start of the study, followed by 3 percent who had smoked a hookah, or water pipe, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics. Mean age was 14.3; about half were female and half were white.

Schoolchildren in England are now more likely to have tried e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes, with more than one in three 15-year-olds having used the devices, despite the fact it has been illegal to sell them to under-18s since October 2015. While teens who try one tobacco product are more likely to try another, the dominant gateway in the PATH survey was from no previous tobacco use to cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration banned sales of e-cigarettes to teens back in 2016. Similar results were obtained for past 30-day cigarette use, and for both former and past 30-day use of each noncigarette tobacco product. Researchers analyzed data from almost 12,000 teens.

"I think the FDA needs to be very careful about how they move forward with the message that these products might be useful for cessation", said McIntosh, who was not involved in the current study.

Rogers says the high rate of smoking in Louisiana can be linked directly to the tobacco companies themselves and the way they fabricate what they do.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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