A new study released this week has found that teens who have tried e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke regular cigarettes. According to a HealthDay report, the study, conducted by the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, found that e-cigarette use was actually associated with increased cigarette smoking among teens contradicting the widely marketed idea by e-cig manufacturers that e-cigarettes actually help people quit smoking.
For this study, researchers analyzed the smoking habits of about 38,000 middle and high school students using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. For years, the CDC has used this survey to glean information about teens’ smoking and tobacco use habits. In 2011 and 2012, they asked about e-cig use as well and found that during that time, the number of adolescents who had ever tried e-cigarettes doubled. Researchers say the use of e-cigarettes among teens is rapidly increasing and that they are not using these devices and smoking cessation aids.
Gateway Drug or Aid to Quit Smoking?
The study further fuels the debate about whether e-cigarettes are a gateway drug and researchers who conducted the study believe they are. The marketing of e-cigarettes, especially to teens, is out of control. They come in flavors such as cupcake, candy and bubble gum with advertisements featuring attractive women and celebrities. There is no question that e-cigarettes are making inroads with young people.
This is cause for serious concern because, right now, e-cigarettes are not being regulated – at all. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that these devices have varying levels of nicotine and other chemicals and carcinogens including one that’s used to make antifreeze. All the progress that has been made in reducing youth smoking significantly could vanish into thin air if we fail to regulate and curtail this burgeoning e-cigarette industry.
The Need for Facts and Answers
Some local jurisdictions have taken positive steps in that direction. This week, the Los Angeles City Council, voted on Tuesday to ban the use of electronic cigarettes from bars, nightclubs and other public spaces. NJOY, the largest independent maker of e-cigarettes, issued a written statement saying that the Los Angeles City Council made its decision “in the absence of credible science.” They say they are concerned that banning e-cigarette use in public places could “deter current tobacco smokers from using the products and thus disserves public health.”
It is apparent that NJOY is still holding on to and marketing the idea that e-cigarettes promote good health by helping people quit smoking. But, here’s the question: Where’s the “credible science” on that? How many studies have been done to show that an e-cigarette works like a patch or gum to help people quit smoking? What are NJOY and other e-cig makers not telling us? And who knows better about what is scientific — the marketing professionals at NJOY or researchers with doctorate degrees? Certainly, these questions are food for thought. Our collective health and well-being could depend on the answers we get.