I’ve written about electronic cigarettes before. As always, I update my views when new evidence becomes available. Here’s some. “Electronic Cigarettes and Conventional Cigarette Use Among US Adolescents”
Importance Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use is increasing rapidly among adolescents, and e-cigarettes are currently unregulated.
Objective To examine e-cigarette use and conventional cigarette smoking.
Design, Setting, and Participants Cross-sectional analyses of survey data from a representative sample of US middle and high school students in 2011 (n = 17 353) and 2012 (n = 22 529) who completed the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Exposures Ever and current e-cigarette use.
Main Outcomes and Measures Experimentation with, ever, and current smoking, and smoking abstinence.
Results Among cigarette experimenters (≥1 puff), ever e-cigarette use was associated with higher odds of ever smoking cigarettes (≥100 cigarettes; odds ratio [OR] = 6.31; 95% CI, 5.39-7.39) and current cigarette smoking (OR = 5.96; 95% CI, 5.67-6.27). Current e-cigarette use was positively associated with ever smoking cigarettes (OR = 7.42; 95% CI, 5.63-9.79) and current cigarette smoking (OR = 7.88; 95% CI, 6.01-10.32). In 2011, current cigarette smokers who had ever used e-cigarettes were more likely to intend to quit smoking within the next year (OR = 1.53; 95% CI, 1.03-2.28). Among experimenters with conventional cigarettes, ever use of e-cigarettes was associated with lower 30-day (OR = 0.24; 95% CI, 0.21-0.28), 6-month (OR = 0.24; 95% CI, 0.21-0.28), and 1-year (OR = 0.25; 95% CI, 0.21-0.30) abstinence from cigarettes. Current e-cigarette use was also associated with lower 30-day (OR = 0.11; 95% CI, 0.08-0.15), 6-month (OR = 0.11; 95% CI, 0.08-0.15), and 1-year (OR = 0.12; 95% CI, 0.07-0.18) abstinence. Among ever smokers of cigarettes (≥100 cigarettes), ever e-cigarette use was negatively associated with 30-day (OR = 0.61; 95% CI, 0.42-0.89), 6-month (OR = 0.53; 95% CI, 0.33-0.83), and 1-year (OR = 0.32; 95% CI, 0.18-0.56) abstinence from conventional cigarettes. Current e-cigarette use was also negatively associated with 30-day (OR = 0.35; 95% CI, 0.18-0.69), 6-month (OR = 0.30; 95% CI, 0.13-0.68), and 1-year (OR = 0.34; 95% CI, 0.13-0.87) abstinence.
Supporters of electronic cigarettes often say that they are a safer alternative, that their use can keep people off of traditional cigarettes, and help people to quit traditional smoking. This study looked to see if that might be true for adolescents.
Adolescents who used e-cigarettes were more likely to smoke cigarettes ever. They were more likely to be established smokers. Among “experimenters”, e-cigarette users were less likely to abstain from smoking cigarettes.
They were more likely to say they planned to quit smoking; they were just less likely to do it.
This won’t end the debate (although I’m not happy so many adolescents are using these things at all). The accompanying editorial gets it right:
While much remains to be learned about the public health benefits and/or consequences of ENDS use, their exponential growth in recent years, including their rapid uptake among youths, makes it clear that policy makers need to act quickly. Adopting the right mix of policies will be critical to minimizing potential risks to public health while maximizing the potential benefits.