According to research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Barcelona, teenagers with smoking, parents are 55% more likely to try electronic cigarettes. In a large study of Irish teenagers, the researchers have also found that the proportion who have tried e-cigarettes has been increasing dramatically and that although boys are more likely to use e-cigarettes, the rate of use among girls is increasing more rapidly.
The researchers highlight the risks associated with nicotine addiction and call
for more effective regulation to protect children and teenagers.
The research was carried out by a team at the TobaccoFree Research Institute
Ireland (TFRI), in Dublin. They examined data on 6,216 17-18-year-olds, including
information on whether their parents smoked while they were growing up. The
teenagers were asked whether they smoked or used e-cigarettes.
The study showed that teenagers whose parents smoked were around 55%
more likely to have tried e-cigarettes and around 51% more likely to have tried
The team also combined several Irish data sets to provide the most
comprehensive analyses of teenage e-cigarette use in Ireland, with information
on more than 10,000 Irish teenagers (aged 16 to 17), to look at the overall
numbers of teenagers trying or regularly using e-cigarettes and how this is
changing over time. This showed that the proportion who had tried e-cigarettes had increased from 23% in 2014 to 39% in 2019.
The main reasons teenagers gave for trying e-cigarettes were curiosity (66%)
and because their friends were vaping (29%). Only 3% said it was to quit
The proportion who said they had never used tobacco when they fir
tried e-cigarettes increased from 32% in 2015 to 68% in 2019
TFRI Director General Professor Luke Clancy explained: “We have found
increasing use of e-cigarettes in Irish teenagers and that’s a pattern that is
emerging elsewhere in the world. There’s a perception 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."
Finally, the researchers looked in detail at data on 3,421 16-year-olds to see if
there were differences between boys and girls. Although boys were more likely
to try or use e-cigarettes, the researchers found that rates were increasing
more quickly among girls with 23% saying they had tried e-cigarettes in 2015
and 39% in 2019, and 10% said they were currently using e-cigarettes in 2015,
rising to 18% in 2019.
Researchers found that having friends who smoke and having less parental monitoring were both major factors in teenage use of e-cigarettes, more so for boys than girls.
Doctoral researcher Ms Salome Sunday told Congress: “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. 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."
Lead Researcher Dr Joan Hanafin added: “We can see that the number of
teenagers using e-cigarettes is changing fast, so we need to keep monitoring
the situation in Ireland and around the world. We also plan to study social
media to understand how this influences girls’ and boys’ vaping behaviour."
Professor Jonathan Grigg is Chair of the European Respiratory Society’s
Tobacco Control Committee and was not involved in the research. He says:
“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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