JAN 11, 2021 9:22 AM PST

The habit-forming dangers of tobacco in young people

New research published today in the online edition of Pediatrics reports on the habit-forming dangers of tobacco products in young people. The research compiles data from a nationally representative longitudinal study by the University of California San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, warning that children under the age of 18 who use e-cigarettes or other tobacco products are at significant risk of becoming daily tobacco users.

"This is the first paper that actually looks at progression to dependent cigarette smoking among young adults. In these data, e-cigarettes are a gateway for those who become daily cigarette smokers," notes the study's first author, John P. Pierce, PhD, Professor Emeritus at Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. "The start product has changed from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, but the end product has stayed the same. When users become dependent on nicotine, they are converting to cigarette smoking."

Pierce and his colleagues analyzed data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study to look specifically at the trends seen in tobacco use and progression for 12- to 24-year-olds. Looking at the data collected over four years of exposure and use of 12 different tobacco products, the researchers found that in the targeted age demographic, people who used e-cigarettes were three times as likely to become daily cigarette smokers in the future. For those who said they used a tobacco product in the first year, their daily use increased with age through age 28, almost doubling for 18- to 21-year-olds and 25- to 28-year-olds.

"Trying e-cigarettes and multiple other tobacco products before the age of 18 is also strongly associated with becoming daily cigarette smoking," said senior author Karen Messer, PhD, professor at UC San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. "We know that e-cigarette use among high school seniors, most under the age of 18, increased from 38 percent in 2016 to 45 percent in 2019. These results suggest that recent rapid growth in adolescent e-cigarette use will lead to increased daily cigarette smoking among young adults in the United States, reversing decades of decline in cigarette smoking."

Sources: Pediatrics, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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