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Body + Brain

Vaping May Lead Teens to Adopt Smoking Habits

A recent study shows that e-cigarettes may be doing more harm than good––especially when it comes to teens.

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For years, e-cigarettes were seen as a device to help people quit smoking—but new research reveals they may actually encourage teens to start smoking cigarettes.

For years, electronic cigarettes have been marketed not only as a safer alternative, but as a device to help quit smoking. But a new study shows that e-cigarettes may be doing more harm than good-especially when it comes to teens.

Samir Soneji from Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and his colleagues modeled e-cigarette usage based on surveys, 2014 census data, and scientific literature. It revealed that vaping led more people to pick up a real smoking habit rather than avoid or quit tobacco use.

The model estimated that, in 2015, about 2,070 cigarette-smoking adults quit with the help of vaping. But an additional 168,000 teens and young adults who used e-cigarettes eventually began smoking real cigarettes on a daily basis. Here’s Janine Wolf from Bloomberg:

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E-cigarettes use cartridges of chemicals, including nicotine, that are transformed into vapor. Despite a federal requirement that purchasers be at least 18 years of age, use of the product in popular culture, combined with its fruity flavors, have proved a strong draw to younger, would-be vapers. These characteristics have been at the core of keeping youths interested in the devices, Soneji said, and should be the focus of restriction efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In 2016, the FDA acknowledged that vaping may be useful for smokers trying to quit. And some research supports that claim. People who smoked e-cigarettes-as opposed to traditional cigarettes-were more likely to attempt, and succeed, to stop smoking. But vaping use among high schoolers is a different story.

From 2011 to 2015, vaping increased among U.S. high schoolers from 1.5% to 16%, outpacing all other tobacco use among that demographic.

Still, Dartmouth researchers believe e-cigarettes could eventually help people quit smoking-as long as they’re kept out of reach of teens. This summer, per the government’s requirement, tobacco products will contain new warnings on their packaging.

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