A new study published in JAMA Pedicatrics seems to suggest that though vaping might be thought of as a way for smokers to quit smoking, its use by non-smoking teenagers and young adults might eventually lead them to start smoking.

How Did They Go About The Study?

The study observed a national US data sample of 694 subjects who were non-smokers and were between the ages of 16 to 26 years. This sample was also non-susceptible to become smokers. The study followed the participants for one year.

What Did They Find?

At the start of the study, only 16 people used e-cigarettes. At the end of the study, 11 of the 16 had become either susceptible to smoking normal cigarettes or simply started smoking, whereas 128 of those who hadn’t smoked e-cigarettes had started smoking normal cigarettes.

The trick here is to observe not whether people became smokers or not, but to chart their movement – if any – from being “non-susceptible non-smokers” to “susceptible non-smokers” to “smokers.”

Statistically controlling for other factors, the analysis shows e-cigarette smokers are eight times more likely to become smokers compared to people who didn’t smoke them. And they are nine times more likely to become “susceptible non-smokers.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

For starters, governments need to limit the sale of e-cigarettes to adolescents and young adults. At the moment, things are quite the opposite. “E-cigarettes are not subject to many laws that regulate traditional cigarettes, such as age limits on sales, taxation and labeling requirements,” says the lead author of the study, Brian A. Primack of the University of Pittsburgh. “They also come in youth-oriented flavorings that laws have limited in traditional cigarettes, such as apple bubble gum and chocolate candy cane.”

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Jonathan Klein of the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “At a time when many claim to be uncertain about the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes and argue for more studies, these data provide strong longitudinal evidence that e-cigarette use leads to smoking, most likely owing to nicotine addiction. We do not need more research on this question; we have the evidence base, and we have strategies that work to protect non-smokers from e-cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.”

There are some detractors of the study, yes. They cite the small size of the data sample and the fact that they had to base their conclusion not on the 694 but on the 16 who were, in fact, e-cigarette smokers.

There is, however, a growing quantum of research in the field and even if we don’t have even more conclusive proof in the near future, we’re certain to see at least some regulation of the sale of e-cigarettes.