Even though it’s illegal for teenagers to smoke, it hasn’t stopped them over the years.
Back in the day, it was tobacco cigarettes. These days, it’s electronic cigarettes.
University of Hawaii Cancer Center researchers released their findings Monday.
After surveying more than 2,300 Oahu high school students, they concluded that there’s a harmful effect.
E-cigarettes are popular among teenagers, in part because they come in fun flavors.
But teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking tobacco cigarettes, according to the study.
“We found a sample of high school students over one year and the question was looking at the people who initially were non-smokers. Did using e-cigarettes make any difference in what happened? We followed the same people a year later and the finding was that people who used e-cigarettes were more likely to start smoking cigarettes a year later,” said Dr. Thomas Wills, interim director, UH Cancer Center’s Prevention and Control Program.
In fact, Wills says teens who smoke e-cigarettes are three times more likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes.
“The message is that e-cigarettes aren’t neutral. They have a risk-promoting effect for smoking cigarettes,” Wills said.
Wills also said in the last four years, there’s been a spike in teens using e-cigarettes, with an estimated 20 to 30 percent now using e-cigarettes, or have tried them.
“It’s very high and very alarming, especially for Hawaii, because Hawaii has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country,” said Rebecca Williams, UH Cancer Center assistant professor.
Their data is based on school surveys of more than 2,300 high school students on Oahu in both public and private schools.
They also broke it down by ethnicity, finding that Hawaiian and Filipino teens were more likely to start using e-cigarettes than Japanese, Chinese, or Korean teens.
They also found that parents have a lot to do with whether or not a teen starts using e-cigarettes.
“The adolescents who scored high on being able to talk to their parents were protected. They were less likely to start using anything,” Wills said.
In Hawaii, the legal smoking age is 21, and that includes e-cigarettes. The new law raising the age went into effect at the beginning of 2016.