Why do kids smoke electronic cigarettes? Is it because they are more health conscious than their combustable cigarette predecessors? Or are they more rebellious and risk taking than their traditional smoking peers?
Either way, e-cigarettes are quickly growing in popularity and usage among youth.
“The prevalence of e-cigarette use in this population was substantially higher than rates reported previously from studies conducted in 2011 to 2012,” according to a group of experts who studied 1,941 9th and 10th grade students in Hawaii.
The researchers set out to determine whether kids who use e-cigs engage differently than traditional smokers or non-smokers in other risk taking behaviors like drinking or marijuana. They found that dual users — those who smoked both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes — are more likely to take risks.
“People who used only e-cigarettes did not score high on variables such as rebelliousness, sensation seeking, and peer smoker affiliations compared with dual users,” said authors of the study, led by Thomas A. Wills, PhD, University of Hawaii Cancer Center. “The dual users clearly represent people who are prone to problem behavior.”
Not surprisingly, non-users represented the lowest risk while users of only e-cigs or only traditional cigarettes fell somewhere in the middle.
The e-cigarette industry is doing a thorough job of marketing their product as 96 percent of high school students express full awareness of e-cigs. The rate of usage (17 percent) among this age group far exceeds combustable-only usage (3 percent).
Kids in Hawaii see more tobacco marketing than in other parts of the U.S., perhaps to compensate for a much higher sales tax on the product. The authors suggest that the high rates of e-cig users among this group may also be aided by their parents.
“Reports from school administrators suggest that some parents perceive e-cigarettes as desirable and buy them for adolescents,” said the authors. “Administrators see this when they take e-cigarettes away from students and parents then complain and demand them back.”
Users of only traditional cigarettes did not believe e-cigs to be any healthier. These kids “are more sensitive to the effects of nicotine, reflected in their high score on smoking expectancies, and perhaps they are less socially integrated in peer groups,” say the researchers.
The study is published in the current issue of Pediatrics.
(Photo by Jonny Williams via Flickr)