We have published many studies over the past several years on e-cigarettes with most, if not all, noting the health risks far outweighing any health benefits. Despite these studies, teens are turning more and more to this method of smoking and one wonders why? For some who smoke tobacco, they may believe that e-cigarettes are a way to quit conventional tobacco products, but prior studies suggest that is not the case.
For those who have never smoked and don’t want to start, e-cigarettes appear to be an alternative—and the use of these vaporized smoking devices that come with flavors to inhale only makes them more desirable to youth who want to use them. But once someone is on an e-cigarette, will they also try conventional smoking—and do flavors only make this conversion even more frequent? Dai et al.(10.1542/peds.2016-2513) opted to study the effect of flavored e-cigarettes by reviewing data contained in the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Of 2017 teens who reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, 61% used flavored varieties. When these adolescents who used flavored cigarettes were compared to those who had not used e-cigarettes at all, the odds ratio of starting conventional tobacco smoking was 5.7 (p<.0001). This same group had a lower desire to quit tobacco use or see it as a dangerous substance when compared to non-e-cigarette users.
This study is a cry for all of us to advocate even more for the banning of e-cigarette products and certainly the addition of flavorings to these products or at least their sale to minors. If we are going to vaporize the influence of e-cigarettes on our teen patients, this study is certainly a strong motivator to do so.