Teenagers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to take up smoking a year later, it has emerged.
Research has found that those who never smoked were almost three times more likely to smoke cigarettes a year after using e-cigarettes, compared to those who never used them.
Just under a third (31%) of more than 2,300 students had used e-cigarettes when they were first questioned in 2013, the study published in the journal Tobacco Control found.
However, almost four out of 10 (38%) students said they had used e-cigarettes a year later.
Most (98%) of those questioned in the first wave of the survey had heard of e-cigarettes, and more than two-thirds (68%) considered them to be healthier than smoking.
The Irish Cancer Society has called on the Department of Health to introduce long-awaited regulations on e-cigarettes.
The society’s head of services, Donal Buggy said the devices could still be legally sold to minors.
“Without regulation, no medical or pharmaceutical advice is being given alongside the purchase of e-cigarettes, creating the potential for long-term use,” said Mr Buggy.
“The vast majority of e-cigarette users are smokers looking to cut down or quit. If e-cigarettes are to be considered a quitting aid in the future, they need to be properly regulated by the Department of Health.”
The Irish Cancer Society wants e-cigarettes to be designated as a medicinal device in the same way nicotine patches and gum are now.
“Nicotine is addictive and giving up is tough. There are more effective treatments that have been proven to increase your chances of quitting up to four times,” said Mr Buggy.
The study on teenagers and e-cigarettes was among youngsters living in Hawaii, with an average age of just under 15 years.
Of those who had never smoked e-cigarettes or tobacco at the start of the study, one in 10 had tried e-cigarettes a year later, while 2% had experimented with cigarettes.
Further analysis showed only those teenagers who used a high number of e-cigarettes in 2013 were classed as ‘regular’ smokers of cigarettes a year later.
The authors said: “This suggests that e-cigarette use among adolescents is not without behavioural costs.
“These findings should be considered for policy discussions about the availability of e-cigarettes to adolescents,” they said.
A study published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine Journal found e-cigarettes do not help smokers to quit smoking cigarettes.
A systematic data review found people using e-cigarettes were 28% less likely to stop smoking tobacco than those not using them.
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