One in five British teenagers has tried e-cigarettes, a study has found.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University said 16 per cent of these had never otherwise smoked, while they also found e-cigarettes were “strongly related” to drinking amongst teenagers.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Mark Bellis, warned that such “rapid penetration into teenage culture of what is essentially a new drug-use option is without precedent”.
The team surveyed more than 16,000 students aged 14 to 17 in the north west of England and asked them about their alcohol and tobacco use.
They found that one in five answered yes to the question: “Have you ever bought or tried electronic cigarettes?”, with more males than females saying they had, and the figure rising with age and if they lived in a deprived area.
Of the teenagers that had accessed e-cigarettes, 16 per cent had never smoked, 23 per cent had tried smoking but did not like it, 36 per cent were regular smokers, 12 per cent only smoked when drinking, and 14 per cent were ex-smokers.
The research, which is published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, also found that teenagers who drank alcohol were significantly more likely to have used e-cigarettes than non-drinkers.
Among those who had never smoked, it was found that those who regularly binge drink were four times more likely to access e-cigarettes than those who never drink.
In all of those that drink, regardless of smoking status, e-cigarette access was associated with binge drinking and involvement with violence after drinking.
The researchers said their findings suggest that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are most susceptible to other forms of substance use and risk-taking behaviours.
E-cigarettes have been marketed as an alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes that is healthier than tobacco. However, research published last month showed that e-cigarettes generate toxic chemicals similar to those found in tobacco and may harm the lungs and immune system.
There is also concern that far from stopping people from lighting up a cigarette, they could act as a potential gateway to smoking.
Source: PAA via AAP