Many high school kids graduate to cigarettes after e-cigarette use

A graphic of a teenager smoking.
(Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein)

High school students who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke cigarettes in subsequent years, according to a new Yale University study published Dec. 4 in the journal Pediatrics.   Those who smoke cigarettes, by contrast, are no more likely than non-smokers to use e-cigarettes over time, the three-year survey of Connecticut high school students shows.

The study surveyed the same high school students at three separate intervals between 2013 and 2015. The results showed that e-cigarette users were consistently more likely to smoke cigarettes by the time of the next survey, compared to those who had not used e-cigarettes. E-cigarette users were seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes at the second survey and four times more likely to smoke cigarettes at the third survey, compared to those youth who had not used e-cigarettes earlier.

In 2015, the last time the students were surveyed, 14.5% reported using e-cigarettes in the past month.

There are now several longitudinal studies showing that youth e-cigarette users move on to using combustible cigarettes in the future, which is concerning because of the risk for nicotine addiction and health problems from smoking,” said Krysten Bold, associate research scientist at the Yale Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science and lead author of the study.

E-cigarette advocates say that the product is much safer than traditional cigarettes and can help people wean off smoking. At the same time, Yale researchers are concerned about the use of this product among teenagers and the fact that it leads to future combustible tobacco product use.

Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, professor of psychiatry at Yale, is the senior author of the study, which was funded primarily by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products.

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