The results of an e-cigarette study at UC San Francisco were recently released. In the study, conducted by postdoctoral fellow Sungkyu Lee, researchers focused on the data obtained in a national Web-based survey of 75,643 adolescents in Korea. The survey data comes from the Korea Youth Risk Behavior research completed in 2011 by the Korea Centers for Disease Control.
In the study, Lee found that the usage of electronic cigarettes by adolescents in grades 7-12 has rapidly risen since the device was first introduced in 2008 – at that time, less than 1% of adolescents had tried the e-cigarette. By the study in 2011, more than 9% of the students studied had used, or regularly use, electronic cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes, dubbed “e-cigarettes,” are nicotine-releasing devices that are powered by batteries. While non-nicotine cartridges are available, most users of the device use cartridges that contain nicotine. They release other chemicals, as well, when the user inhales the nicotine vapor.
Since first hitting the market, the electronic devices have been hailed as being many times healthier than conventional cigarettes, although many doctors and experts debate that. The e-cigarettes have gained popularity, as well from Hollywood stars’ use of them.
In 2010, Katherine Heigl discussed her use of the device on Late Night with David Letterman. Heigl was a conventional cigarette smoker for many years, and decided to quit after adopting her daughter. However, all of the methods she tried were fruitless – until she found the e-cigarette. She does admit, though, that she is addicted to the electronic version of cigarettes now.
Lee’s study was the first to analyze electronic cigarette usage in adolescents, and he now works for the National Evidence-Based Healthcare Collaborating Agency in Korea.
The Korean study also indicated that 4 out of 5 adolescent users of the battery-powered cigarettes were also smokers of regular cigarettes.
Other interesting conclusions from the study show that the majority of adolescent e-cigarette users were either trying to quit smoking conventional cigarettes, or habitually smoke both conventional and e-cigarettes. It also showed that the use of electronic cigarettes in adolescents greatly increase the odds that the student will end up being a conventional smoker.
In the U.S., the federally-run Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted their own study, and reported that most adolescents who had tried the e-cigarette had also smoked regular cigarettes. As of 2012, more than 1.78 million teens and adolecents had tried smoking an electronic cigarette.
A professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF, Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, said, “We are witnessing the beginning of a new phase of the nicotine epidemic and a new route to nicotine addiction for kids,” according to Science Daily.
The entire study can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Main image courtesy gloriaricardi via Wikimedia Commons.