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‘Little evidence’ that e-cigarettes promote smoking in teenagers, finds study

There is limited evidence that e-cigarettes encouraged smoking in teenagers in the years after they came on the market, a study has concluded.

Researchers looked in to whether the proliferation of e-cigarette products between 2010 and 2015 led to increased acceptance of smoking behaviours (a process known as renormalisation), and therefore increased cigarette use.

The percentage of students who described trying a cigarette as ‘OK’ fell from 36% in 2003 to 14% in 2014.

Positive perceptions of smoking declined at the fastest rate post-2010, when e-cigarette use started to increase in the UK, with fewer students saying that trying smoking or smoking weekly was ‘OK’.

The number of pupils who had ever tried smoking fell from 60% to 19% between 1998 and 2015.

Although the rate of decline of pupils having ever smoked was not significant post-2010, there was a small but significant rate decline in pupils who smoked weekly or more regularly between 2011 and 2015.

The study looked at almost 250,000 responses to three separate surveys of 13-15 years olds in England, Scotland and Wales between 1998 and 2015.

The researchers commented that there is nothing to suggest that increasing prevalence of e-cigarette use and limited regulation of e-cigarettes contributed to increased youth smoking and positive perceptions of cigarettes.

They said in the paper: ‘Our results provide little evidence that renormalisation of smoking occurred during this period.

‘Newer products entering the market have been described by some as showing particular popularity among young people. Hence, while neither widespread regular youth vaping, nor the renormalisation of smoking, appear to have occurred during the period investigated here, ongoing monitoring of young people’s e-cigarette use, and links to smoking, remains a public health priority.’

Tob control 2019; online 1 April