SAN JOSE, Calif. —Teenagers are using e-cigarettes more than any other tobacco product and for many, it’s the first time they’ve tried a tobacco product at all, a new survey finds. The data are concerning, said Wilson Compton, the Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While e-cigarettes are touted as a means to help adult smokers quit, the devices might prime young brains for addiction, Compton said during a news conference February 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The data come from the NIH’s Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan, which tracks substance use trends in eight-, 10th- and 12th-graders. Each year the researchers survey about 40,000 to 50,000 teens. While daily cigarette smoking by teens has decreased significantly in the past five years, e-cigarette smoking, or vaping, is popular, even among teens who have never smoked, data from 2014 reveal. Among eighth–graders who reported using e-cigarettes in the past month, 36 percent had never used other forms of tobacco. For 10th graders, 30 percent of the e-cigarettes users had no other tobacco use and for 12th graders, 21 percent had no other tobacco use.
Studies in rodents have shown that nicotine accelerates addiction to cocaine in adolescents but not adults, said Compton, suggesting that e-cigarettes might make teens more susceptible to other addictions.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on February 17, 2015, to note that vaping is popular. Whether vaping is on the rise, as stated in an earlier version of this story, wasn’t measured in this study.