With the debut of vaping in the US in 2007, there was hope that teens who smoked would replace old-school cigarettes with e-cigarettes, curbing tobacco use. But a new USC study in the journal Pediatrics has found teens who never would have smoked regular cigarettes are experimenting with vaping. Another USC study finds older teens who try vaping are six times more likely to try a tobacco-filled cigarette than non-vapers, per a press release. "E-cigarettes may be recruiting a new group of kids to tobacco use," says Jessica Barrington-Trimis, lead author of both studies. While e-cigs may seem safer than tobacco, if they come pumped with nicotine (some don't), kids can get addicted. The New York Times notes chemicals in the vaping liquid may be harmful; WebMD adds long-term effects are unknown.
Using participants from USC's Children's Health Study, scientists followed 5,490 teens who graduated high school in select years between 1995 and 2015, asking them via questionnaire about their tobacco use. It's true that rates among Southern California teens who said they had smoked over the past 30 days fell significantly from 1995 to 2004 (19% to 9%), and slightly more in the decade after that (a bit less than 8% by 2014). But when teens were asked to include e-cigarettes in their assessments, the smoking rate jumped back up to 14% in 2014. And that's got scientists worried, especially with the prevalence of e-cigarettes that come in kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy. "E-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes for adults who are transitioning from smoking to vaping, but for youth who have never used any other tobacco products, nicotine experimentation could become nicotine addiction," Barrington-Trimis says. (Read more vaping stories.)