Teen e-cigarette users '˜3 times more likely to smoke'

Teenagers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to take up smoking a year later, research suggests.

More than two-thirds of those questioned thought e-cigarettes were healthier than smoking. Picture: Baliuk Oleg
More than two-thirds of those questioned thought e-cigarettes were healthier than smoking. Picture: Baliuk Oleg

Never-smokers who tried e-cigarettes were almost three times more likely to smoke cigarettes a year later compared with those who had never had an e-cigarette.

Just under a third (31 per cent) of more than 2,300 students had used e-cigarettes when they were first questioned in 2013, the study published in the journal Tobacco Control found.

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A year later, this figure had risen to 38 per cent.

Most (98 per cent) of those questioned in the first wave of the survey had heard of e-cigarettes, and more than two-thirds (68 per cent) considered them to be healthier than smoking.

The study comes as charity Cancer Research UK said the tobacco industry should be made to pay for the damage it causes.

It said cuts to public health funding mean local stop smoking services are closing, but industry should “cough up” for such services.

By charging tobacco firms around 1p per cigarette sold in the UK, an extra £500m could be raised, it said.

According to Cancer Research UK’s analysis, smoking continues to kill more than 100,000 people in the UK every year.

The tobacco industry makes a profit of more than £4,000 for every UK death caused by tobacco.

Internationally, it makes around £30 billion in profit.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “For too long the tobacco industry has had an easy ride, making money without having to spend a single pound on the damage its products cause.

“It continues to profit from selling a highly addictive and lethal product that causes illness and death. Tobacco companies make billions of pounds every year, so we’d like to see them using their profits to keep stop smoking services open and fund advertising campaigns to help people quit.

“At a time when health budgets are stretched, this is a simple solution to a lethal problem. We urge the government to make the industry cough up.”

The study on teenagers and e-cigarettes was among youngsters living in Hawaii, with an average age of just under 15 years.

Of those who had never smoked e-cigarettes or tobacco at the start of the study, one in ten had tried e-cigarettes a year later, while 2 per cent had experimented with cigarettes.

Further analysis showed only those teenagers who used a high number of e-cigarettes in 2013 were classed as “regular” smokers of cigarettes a year later.

The authors said: “This suggests that e-cigarette use among adolescents is not without behavioural costs.

“These findings should be considered for policy discussions about the availability of e-cigarettes to adolescents.”