*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
As electronic cigarettes took off, some worried they would lead teens back to traditional cigarettes. But new research suggests that's not the case.
Vaping has done little to slow or reverse a two-decade decline in the popularity of regular cigarettes among youth, a British study suggests.
"Given the important contribution to public health which has been achieved by the 'denormalization' of smoking among young people, we need to keep a close eye on anything which might reverse that," stressed study author Graham Moore.
So, could vaping somehow make smoking "cool" again among youth?
To find out, Moore's team analyzed surveys conducted between 1998 and 2015 of roughly 248,000 English, Scottish and Welsh students, aged 13 to 15.
The polls revealed that the percentage of teens who had ever tried a cigarette plummeted from 60% in 1998 to just 19% by 2015. The percentage of regular smokers also dropped, from 19% to 5%.
That trend continued despite the advent of vaping earlier this decade, the investigators found.
"From our conversations with young people, the fact that the rise in experimentation with e-cigarettes was not accompanied by a rise in smoking does make some sense," added Moore, a reader in the school of social sciences at Cardiff University in Wales.
Moore noted that today's youth "tend to distinguish quite strongly" between smoking cigarettes and using e-cigarettes.
For example, teens embrace the term "vaping" as a way to identify e-cigarettes "as a different entity to tobacco cigarettes," he said.
In the United Kingdom and the United States, tobacco smoking is "still widely regarded as unacceptable by most young people," said Moore.
Among American students last year, 5% of middle schoolers and 21% of high school kids reported having vaped in the past month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, less than 2% of middle school students and about 8% of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in the past month, a significant drop since 2011.
The new findings were published in Tobacco Control.