E-Cigs More Common Than Cigarettes Among Teens

Electronic cigarette use by teens was more common than use of conventional cigarettes, and many teens thought the devices were safer than tobacco

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Traditional cigarette smoking has been dropping among US teens for years. But there might be a new trend to consider — e-cigarettes.

A new study found that the use of e-cigarettes (e-cigs) is now more common than traditional cigarettes among US high schoolers.

"As one of the newest smoking-type products in recent years, e-cigarettes have made rapid inroads into the lives of American adolescents," said Richard Miech, one of the study's senior authors, in a news release from the University of Michigan.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are battery-operated, cigarette-sized devices. They heat a nicotine solution to produce vapor the user inhales, versus the tobacco smoke produced by a traditional cigarette. While e-cigs do not contain tobacco, they do usually contain nicotine. Nicotine is the primary addictive chemical in tobacco.

According to the University of Michigan, the liquids in e-cigs are not regulated, so their exact contents may vary. The products often contain flavors, some of which might be very attractive to young teens, the university noted.

This new data came from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, an ongoing annual survey of US teens. In 2014, the study involved 41,551 eighth, 10th and 12th grade students from 377 US schools.

The 2014 survey included questions about whether the students had used a tobacco cigarette or an e-cig during the past 30 days. Results showed that e-cigs had become more common than traditional cigarettes among the students.

Four percent of eighth graders reported using a traditional cigarette in the past 30 days, while 8.7 percent used an e-cig. Among 10th graders, 7.2 percent reported using a traditional cigarette, while 16.2 percent used an e-cig. Among 12th graders, 13.6 percent used a traditional cigarette, while 17.1 percent used an e-cig.

These results suggested that, while e-cig use was more common among all high school students, it was more than twice as common as traditional cigarette use among eighth and 10th graders.

Much is still to be learned about these new products, and about potential health risks, Dr. Miech and team noted. This study found that many teens saw e-cigs as much less dangerous to health than traditional cigarettes. Current research cannot confirm whether e-cigs are truly safer.

Further research is needed to better understand e-cigs' health effects and their use among teens, Dr. Miech and team said.

This data was released Dec. 16 by the University of Michigan. The complete findings will be published in January.

The authors had not disclosed any funding sources or conflicts of interest at the time of publication.


Review Date: 
December 17, 2014
Last Updated:
March 12, 2015