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Mar 06, 2014 04:37 PM EST

E-Cigarettes May Be A Gateway To Nicotine Addiction For Teens

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Teens who have tried electronic cigarettes are more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes, according to a recent study HealthDay reported.

New research from investigators at the University of California, San Francisco show that  e-cigarette devices, which are promoted as a way to quit regular cigarettes may actually serve as a new route to conventional smoking and nicotine addiction for teenagers. They found that adolescents are more likely to smoke cigarettes and less likely to quit smoking after using these devices.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that look like cigarettes and deliver an aerosol of nicotine and other chemicals. They are sold in flavors such as chocolate and strawberry that are banned in conventional cigarettes because of their appeal to youth.

"Despite claims that e-cigarettes are helping people quit smoking, we found that e-cigarettes were associated with more, not less, cigarette smoking among adolescents," lead author Lauren Dutra, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, said in a statement. "E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco."

For the study, researchers examined survey data from middle and high school students who completed the National Youth Tobacco Survey in 2011 and 2012.

They found that the e-cigarettes were associated with higher odds of progression from experimenting with cigarettes to becoming established cigarette smokers. Additionally, adolescents who smoked both conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes smoked more cigarettes per day than non-e-cigarette users.

Frank Chaloupka, a professor of economics with the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote in the study that policies surrounding e-cigarettes need to be examined.

"Their exponential growth in recent years, including their rapid uptake among youths, makes it clear that policymakers need to act quickly," Chaloupka wrote.

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