Objective Use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is prevalent among adolescents, but there is little knowledge about the consequences of their use. We examined, longitudinally, how e-cigarette use among adolescents is related to subsequent smoking behaviour.
Methods Longitudinal school-based survey with a baseline sample of 2338 students (9th and 10th graders, mean age 14.7 years) in Hawaii surveyed in 2013 (time 1, T1) and followed up 1 year later (time 2, T2). We assessed e-cigarette use, tobacco cigarette use, and psychosocial covariates (demographics, parental support and monitoring, and sensation seeking and rebelliousness). Regression analyses including the covariates tested whether e-cigarette use was related to the onset of smoking among youth who had never smoked cigarettes, and to change in smoking frequency among youth who had previously smoked cigarettes.
Results Among T1 never-smokers, those who had used e-cigarettes at T1 were more likely to have smoked cigarettes at T2; for a complete-case analysis, adjusted OR=2.87, 95% CI 2.03 to 4.05, p<0.0001. Among ever-smokers at T1, using e-cigarettes was not related to significant change in their frequency of smoking at T2. Uptake of e-cigarette use among T1 never-users of either product was predicted by age, Caucasian or Native Hawaiian (vs Asian-American) ethnicity, lower parental education and parental support, higher rebelliousness, and perception of e-cigarettes as healthier.
Conclusions Adolescents who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. This result together with other findings suggests that policies restricting adolescents’ access to e-cigarettes may have a rationale from a public health standpoint.
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