One of the motivations behind the new FDA regulations regarding e-cigarettes has to do with the idea that they serve as a gateway to smoking for children and adolescents. This is not an idle concern, as a study of Canadian ninth graders found. Doctors, parents and others hoping to prevent youngsters from trying e-cigarettes will have to work hard to convince them that e-cigarettes are not fun or cool.
In the study, over 70 percent of the students said they started because e-cigarettes were cool, were fun and were new.
Between 15 and 20 percent of adolescents and young adults use e-cigarettes, according to other Canadian studies. This study was interested in finding out how they got started.
In Canada, e-cigarette use is now more common among teenagers than smoking.
E-cigarette use was greater among boys than among girls. Having family members or friends who smoked also raised the odds of a student using e-cigarettes, as did having smoked cigarettes, cigarillos or a water pipe within the last 30 days.
Another question asked why students started using e-cigarettes and offered five different choices. Nearly 72 percent chose the answer, “It's cool/fun/something new,” though over ten percent of the respondents did not answer the question.
There was little indication that students were using e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes. Only about six percent said they had tried e-cigarettes either to help them quit smoking or to smoke less.
The study authors think that the reason they found a lower rate of e-cigarette compared to other Canadian studies is simply because they were looking at a younger population (age 14-15) than earlier studies did. Still, in Canada, e-cigarette use is now more common among teenagers than smoking.
E-cigarettes should have the same advertising restrictions as exist for other tobacco products, according to the editorial, which also called for prohibition of flavorings, which may make e-cigarettes more attractive, citing them as the main reason they appeal to youth.
The good news, such as it is, is that the appeal of e-cigarettes seems to be strongest for ninth graders who already smoke. Odds of e-cigarette use were 12 times higher in those who already smoked. So while they may be serving as a gateway to smoking, they're being used more by teens who already smoke cigarettes, at least in this study.