E-cigarettes have long been touted by manufacturers as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but new research adds a dangerous twist, finding e-cigarette use can increase the risk of becoming a daily tobacco cigarette smoker.
In a four-year study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the University of San Diego found trying an e-cigarette before age 18 more than tripled the chances of becoming a daily tobacco cigarette smoker, from 3% to 10%. The study’s authors concluded rapid growth in youth e-cigarette use will lead to increased daily cigarette smoking in U.S. young adults.
The researchers further noted “the recent large increase in [youth] e-cigarette use will likely reverse the decline in cigarette smoking among USA young adults."
Secretary Azar said the rise, as well as evidence youth were drawn to particular e-cigarette flavors, were the onus for the FDA's 2019 priority enforcement of illegal kid-friendly e-cigarette flavor marketing.
The concerning association between e-cigarettes and increased tobacco cigarette use is not limited to youths. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown similar findings in adults, calling into question the idea e-cigarettes are an ideal substitute for traditional smoking.
As manufacturers continue marketing e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes, that safety remains heavily debated. This study added to the growing knowledge on e-cig safety and found a hidden danger: E-cigs may lead to cigarette addiction.
Nancy Anoruo, M.D., MPH, is a faculty physician at Harvard Medical School whose work on e-cigarettes has been published by the American Thoracic Society and American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. She is a member of ABC News Medical Unit.
Dr. Rose Marie Leslie contributed to this report.