Tobacco use down, but e-cigs booming, and may open door for drug use

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Susan M. Cameron, president and chief executive officer of Reynolds American Inc. holds up her e-cigarette, the VUSE, during a press conference at Reynolds American in Tobaccoville, North Carolina May 23, 2014. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company announced that a subsidiary, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., will start of production of the VUSE digital vapor cigarette and create at least 200 new jobs at their 1 million-square-foot facility in Tobaccoville. REUTERS/Chris Keane

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) -- A study published in Pediatrtics the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that e-cigarettes are a lure to adolescents who otherwise would not risk using tobacco products.

Despite a University of Michigan report noting the lowest percentage of alcohol and tobacco use among teens since 1975, many questions still remain about the impact of increasingly popular liquid nicotine vaporizers, or e-cigarettes. Until those questions can be answered, some say the battery operated devices pose a risk as gateway drugs The LA Times reported.

According to the pediatric study, data collected in 2013 surveying 1,941 ninth- and 10th-graders from Oahu, Hawaii, a total of 29 percent of the students questioned had sampled electronic cigarettes at least once. The number shows a steady increase of teen use when compared to findings reported in the National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's that found 10 percent of U.S. teens had tried e-cigarettes in 2012 and 4.7 percent in 2011.

The Hawaii survey assessed e-cigarette use and cigarette use as well as alcohol and marijuana use. Consideration was taken for psychosocial risk and questions were asked about "protective variables" such as parental support, academic involvement, smoking expectancies, peer smoking and sensation seeking. The purpose of the protective variables helped determine the likelihood that youth who used e-cigarettes would avoid tobacco products if e-cigarettes did not exist. In essence, these factors helped identify teens as either a low, medium or high risk for using tobacco. 

Results indicated that adolescents who exclusively used e-cigarettes were "motivated more by curiosity and conventional exploration," as well as the perception that vaporizers were a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. These individuals "did not score high on variables such as rebelliousness, sensation seeking and peer smoker affiliations" and were medium risk for taking up tobacco smoking. The data showed that once having tried the e-cigarettes, these same youth became "vulnerable to cigarette smoking" and were more likely to regularly use conventional cigarettes, marijauna and alcohol then those who did not use e-cigarettes at all.

Comparatively, "dual users," people who used e-cigarettes and cigarettes, were found to be higher on risk factors and lower on protective variables, "thus the dual users clearly represent people who are prone to problem behavior," the study authors wrote"

According to the pediatric study, e-cigarettes were projected to sell $11.7 billion in the United States last year.