| WASHINGTON, March 6
WASHINGTON, March 6 A study published on
Thursday found an association between smoking and e-cigarette
use among adolescents but didn't answer a pressing public-health
question on whether e-cigarettes acted as a gateway to smoking.
Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the study found that among
those who have smoked, adolescents who also used e-cigarettes
were less likely to have given up smoking than those who did not
not use e-cigarettes.
The authors of the study, Lauren Dutra and Stanton Glantz, a
prominent opponent of e-cigarettes, concluded that the "use of
e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage,
conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents."
Critics say the results do not support such a conclusion.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences
at Boston University School of Public Health who has spoken
publicly in favor of e-cigarettes, said that while the study
draws a correlation between smoking and e-cigarette use, there
was no evidence to prove e-cigarettes led to smoking.
"The authors seem to have an axe to grind," he said. "I
could equally argue that what this study shows is that people
who are heavy smokers are attracted to e-cigarettes because they
are looking to quit."
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and
conducted by the University of California San Francisco's Center
for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
It comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepares
to gain regulatory control over e-cigarettes, which generated
sales of nearly $2 billion last year, and which some analysts
believe could eventually exceed the $80-billion tobacco market.
The aim of the study was to further understand the
relationship between e-cigarette use, conventional cigarette use
and quitting among U.S. adolescents.
It relied on data from some 40,000 adolescents who completed
the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Surveys carried out by
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The authors said that since the study did not follow its
subjects over time, they couldn't determine whether most youths
began smoking conventional cigarettes before moving to
e-cigarettes, or vice versa.
Adult smoking rates have fallen to 18 percent from 43
percent in 1965. Even so, more than 3,200 young people a day
under the age of 18 try their first cigarette, a recent
government report found, and the use of e-cigarettes by young
people doubled between 2011 and 2012.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered cartridges that look like
cigarettes and contain a nicotine liquid that, when heated,
creates an inhalable vapor. This vapor, advocates say, is less
dangerous than traditional cigarette smoke since it does not
contain lung-damaging tar.
Nicotine itself is considered relatively benign compared
with cigarettes, but data on the long-term safety of
e-cigarettes, which contain a variety of chemicals, is limited.
That uncertainty has led a number of cities, including New
York, Chicago, Boston and, most recently, Los Angeles, to
restrict the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars,
nightclubs and other public spaces.