A new study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Barcelona, Spain, found that teens whose parents smoke are 55% more likely to try e-cigarettes.
In a major study of Irish teenagers, researchers found that the proportion who have tried e-cigarettes has increased considerably. Although boys are more likely to use e-cigarettes, girls’ use is expanding more rapidly.
The study authors warn of the dangers of nicotine dependence and advocate for stricter laws to protect young people.
A group from the Dublin-based TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI) conducted the study. They looked at data on 6,216 teenagers between the ages of 17 and 18, including information on whether their parents smoked while they were children. Teens were asked about smoking and e-cigarettes.
According to the study, teens who have smoking parents are about 55% more likely to have tried e-cigarettes and around 51% more likely to have attempted smoking.
With data on more than 10,000 Irish teenagers (aged 16 to 17), the team also combined several Irish data sets to provide the most thorough analyses of teen e-cigarette use in Ireland. They looked at the overall numbers of teenagers who try or regularly use e-cigarettes as well as how this is changing over time. This revealed a rise in the percentage of people who had tried e-cigarettes from 23% in 2014 to 39% in 2019.
Teenagers cited curiosity (66%) and peer pressure (29%) as the key drivers for trying e-cigarettes. 3% of people claimed it was to stop smoking. In 2015, 32% of people who tried e-cigarettes for the first time said they had never used tobacco. In 2019, that number rose to 68%.
“We have found increasing use of e-cigarettes in Irish teenagers and that’s a pattern that is emerging elsewhere in the world,” said TFRI Director General Professor Luke Clancy.
“There’s a perception,” according to the director general, “that vaping is a better alternative to smoking, but our research shows that this doesn’t apply to teenagers who usually haven’t tried cigarettes prior to e-cigarettes. This indicates that, for teens, vaping is a route into nicotine addiction, rather than out of it.”
In order to determine whether there were any disparities between boys and girls, the researchers carefully examined the data on 3,421 16-year-olds. The researchers discovered that although boys were more likely to try or use e-cigarettes, rates among girls were rising more swiftly, with 23% reporting having tried e-cigarettes in 2015 and 39% in 2019, and 10% reporting they were presently using e-cigarettes in 2015 and rising to 18% in 2019. Researchers discovered that teenage usage of e-cigarettes, more so for males than girls, was significantly influenced by having peers who smoke and having less parental supervision.
“We can see that parents and friends have an influence on teenagers’ decisions to try e-cigarettes and that’s important because these are factors that we can try to change,” added Doctoral researcher Ms Salome Sunday.
“However, governments need to play their part by making laws to protect children and young people. We already do this with smoking and we need to do the same with vaping.”
According to Dr. Joan Hanafin, the lead researcher, we need to continue monitoring the situation in Ireland and around the world since we can see that the number of youngsters smoking e-cigarettes is changing quickly.
“We also plan to study social media to understand how this influences girls’ and boys’ vaping behaviour.”
Professor Jonathan Grigg, who chairs the tobacco control committee for the European Respiratory Society, and was not involved in the study added: “These findings are worrying, not just for teenagers in Ireland, but for families all around the world. We know already that children of parents who smoke are more likely to take up smoking. This study suggests that teenagers are also influenced by smoking parents to start using e-cigarettes and become addicted to nicotine.
“This work indicates that more and more teenagers are trying e-cigarettes and they are not doing so to help them quit smoking. This is important because we know that e-cigarettes are not harmless. The effects of nicotine addiction are well-established, and we are discovering that e-cigarettes can harm the lungs, blood vessels and brain. We need to do more to protect children and teenagers from these harms.”
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