Vaping leads teens to smoking, new study says

A study of more than 3,000 students at public schools in LA suggests that those who vape are more likely to become traditional cigarette smokers.

Reed Saxon/AP/File
Vials of flavored liquid are seen on sale at Vapeology, an LA store selling electronic cigarettes and related items.

The link between teens vaping and smoking cigarettes could be closer than many initially thought.

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that teens who regularly smoke e-cigarettes are far more likely than their peers who don't to pick up a traditional smoking habit. While vaping has been marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, these findings echo “gateway drug” concerns some health experts and the Center for Disease Control have put forward in their criticism of the habit.

“It’s such an emerging public health issue,” Adam Leventhal, the director of the Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and the study’s lead author, told Time magazine. “These teens aren’t just experimenting – a significant portion are progressing to more regular levels of smoking.”

Using interviews conducted with 3,000 high school students in Los Angeles County, researchers determined that one-third of sophomores had tried an e-cigarette at least once, and 5 percent said they vaped more than twice in the past month. When researchers circled back six months later, they found that 20 percent of the frequent e-cigarette users had picked up a frequent smoking habit, and 12 percent more had become occasional smokers.

Only 2 percent of those who had never vaped start smoking cigarettes by the end of the same year.

Researchers say it’s not quite clear what factors are pushing those who vape to start smoking cigarettes. Some have argued that nicotine in e-cigarettes leads those who vape to become addicted and seek out cigarettes, but there are many teens who vape nicotine-free solutions for their flavors.

“Compare that to teens who had never vaped: when they start smoking, the nicotine might be unpleasant to them because they’re not used to it,” Dr. Leventhal said. But using the products without nicotine may still make teens “more inclined to experiment with other tobacco products.”

The findings also provide information to back up health officials' concerns over the product. Over the summer, the FDA began a push to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, arguing that they could entice young people to pick up smoking. The CDC's director, Tom Frieden, publicly raised concerns over the devices and their potential to make young people more susceptible to smoking.  

“The use of e-cigarettes in kids appears increasingly likely to result in an increased risk of using regular cigarettes,” he said at a press briefing in January. “They are not harmless.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Vaping leads teens to smoking, new study says
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today