*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
Fruit- or candy-flavored electronic cigarettes may entice American teens to start smoking tobacco, a new study suggests.
Using data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City found that among middle school and high school students who had never smoked, 58 percent who used flavored e-cigarettes said they intended to start smoking tobacco cigarettes.
"Due to a proliferation of e-cigarette flavors on the market, flavored e-cigarette use among youth in the U.S. has increased significantly," study author Hongying Dai said. She's an associate professor of health services and outcomes at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
"The majority of youth who have ever used e-cigarettes started with a flavored product," Dai added.
Flavored e-cigarettes aren't prohibited in the United States. More than 460 brands and 7,700 flavors are currently on the market. The number of teens who use e-cigarette devices to "vape" has nearly quadrupled since 2013, Dai said.
The recent rule from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulating e-cigarettes excluded the agency from regulating flavors in these products. This provision was deleted from the original FDA proposal by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"Flavored e-cigarette use among youth might serve as a gateway for future smoking and was associated with decreased odds of quitting smoking," Dai said. "Comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies that address flavored e-cigarette products are critically needed to reduce tobacco use among youth."
Among nearly 16,500 teens who had never smoked cigarettes but used e-cigarettes, Dai's team looked at whether or not they intended to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes. The researchers also looked at more than 1,300 current smokers and assessed if they intended to quit. Finally, the investigators looked at nearly 21,500 teens to assess their perception of the dangers of tobacco.
The study found that just over 2,000 teens said they had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Of these, 61 percent said they had used flavored e-cigarettes. Among those who had never smoked traditional tobacco, 56 percent of e-cigarette users said they had used flavored e-cigarettes. Among current tobacco smokers, 68 percent of those who also "vaped" said they had used flavored e-cigarettes.
A majority of kids who used flavored e-cigarettes but had never smoked tobacco said they were likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes in the future. In addition, tobacco smokers who also used e-cigarettes said they were less likely to quit smoking. Moreover, e-cigarette use was associated with a lower perception of the harmful effects of tobacco, Dai said.
The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.