*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on U.S. News & World Report.
Teens in the United States who use electronic cigarettes are six times more likely to move on to traditional cigarettes compared to kids who never use the devices, a new study reports.
A survey of about 300 high school students found a troubling pattern.
"Adolescents who had never smoked, but who had used e-cigarettes, were substantially more likely to begin smoking combustible cigarettes over the next year," said study lead author Jessica Barrington-Trimis. She is a postdoctoral researcher with the University of Southern California's Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science.
"The increase in e-cigarette use, which may be followed by increases in cigarette use, could result in an erosion of the progress that has been made over the last several decades in tobacco control," Barrington-Trimis said.
In recent years, scientists have debated whether e-cigarettes help smokers quit, or act as a gateway to tobacco smoking. Because of these concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors starting mid-summer.
According to new survey results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year just 11 percent of high school students said they'd smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days -- a significant decline since the 1990s. However, 24 percent said they'd used vape products, such as electronic cigarettes, within the last month.
For the new study, researchers surveyed 11th and 12th graders, average age 17, about use of e-cigarettes, cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs. Of those, 146 used e-cigarettes and 152 had never tried them. None had smoked cigarettes.
But 16 months later, the researchers found that 40 percent of e-cigarette users had begun smoking traditional cigarettes. This compared to 11 percent of those who'd never "vaped" -- the term for using electronic cigarettes. The study authors determined the vapers were just over six times more likely to have tried smoking compared to teens who weren't using e-cigarettes.
"We can't definitively conclude the e-cigarettes cause kids to smoke cigarettes," Barrington-Trimis said. However, "those who had used e-cigarettes at baseline were substantially more likely to begin smoking cigarettes."
The study was published online June 13 in the journal Pediatrics.
Source: U.S. News & World Report