Where will e-cigarettes and vaping lead?

(Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

(Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

A recent study has added to the ongoing concerns about what e-cigarettes and vaping may lead to in the near future. Just as marijuana is often seen as the gateway drug, many are arguing that the drastic increase in the use of e-cigarettes and vaping with higher concentrations of nicotine may be the gateway towards more frequent smoking and vaping in the future.

In 2016, about 11 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes. During this time, past research found that teen vaping could lead to smoking. Many studies analyzed this possible correlation, but by simply looking at vaping in general, it was difficult to create sound data to support these speculations.

However, this new study published this past October in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first look at examining whether vaping higher amounts of nicotine is associated with more frequent and more intense vaping and cigarette use in the future. Though this may seem rather intuitive, researchers are now able to study causation rather than simply analyzing correlations.

At the University of Southern California, researchers surveyed 181 Sophomores from ten high schools in Los Angeles who have reported vaping in the previous 30 days. When they followed up six months later (the students were now Juniors), the teens answered questions about how much and how often they smoked and vaped in the past month and the approximate amount of nicotine in their vaping liquid.

With each “step up” in nicotine concentration, teens were about twice as likely to report frequent smoking versus no smoking at the six-month follow-up. Teens who vaped with high-nicotine content smoked seven times as many cigarettes per day as those who vaped without nicotine.

In addition, teens were one and a half times as likely to report frequent vaping than no vaping at all with each nicotine level increase. Researchers found that vaping high-nicotine liquid has led to almost two and a half times as many incidents of vaping per day compared with no-nicotine vaping. Clearly, there is support indicating the relationship between e-cigarettes and regular smoking is not simply coincidence.

Despite these findings, there still is abundant research, such as those who conducted in the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, suggesting there is no real evidence that experimenting with e-cigarettes leads to teenagers taking up smoking tobacco. This research is also supported by much sound evidence and support. How do we make sense of these conflicting arguments? What we have to remember is that even though we may see some correlations or possibly even causations about e-cigarettes leading to smoking, there is still much research to be done to further investigate this growing field. The best way to keep our students healthy and away from harm is to stay informed, making sure to analyze both sides of the story before reaching any conclusions.


Lily Zhong is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lily.zhong@uconn.edu.