New research in Pediatrics is pointing to psychosocial factors as a main driver in the explosion of teen use of e-cigarettes. Teens are much more likely to pick up the habit if their friends or family find the devices cool or acceptable.

Most research have explored the link between traditional smoking and e-cigarette use. In the new study, the teens belong to a unique group. They have never smoked before.

Lead author, Jessica Barrington-Tremis of the University of Southern California, compares it with a Venn diagram. Think of traditional smoking and e-cigarettes. While there is a linkage, the overlap isn’t as big as most researchers thought.

“If you think of e-cigarette and cigarette use as two circles, the overlap isn’t as big as expected,” Barrington-Trimis said.

The study focused on data collected from 2,084 Southern California teens in 2014. The self-reporting of e-cigarette use broke down to around 25 percent of the study participants. Traditional smoking saw a rate of 20 percent.

Out of the group, 10 percent used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, compared with 6 percent smoking traditional cigarettes in the same timeframe.

What about perceived harm of e-cigarettes? 14 percent of the teens studied thought the devices posed no risk, compared to the less than 1 percent who thought cigarettes posed no harm. Whoever was in the 1 percent pool was screwing around with the researchers.

teens and e-cigarette use

The use of e-cigarettes was tied to traditional smoking, but 41 percent of current e-cigarette users had never smoked a regular cigarette. Instead, they felt their group of friends were more likely to accept e-cigarette use than traditional smoking.

What the study cannot link is the idea that using e-cigarettes leads to picking up traditional smoking. Instead, the theory of the study authors is it leads to the ‘renormalization’ of tobacco products.

Or, it could be kids like the fact they can fill a room with vaporized haze and not launch into a coughing fit. You don’t have to go far on social media to see the videos of the vaping community.

What can parents do? The verdict is still out on the devices themselves. What isn’t questioned is the effect of nicotine on developing brains. Researchers are struggling to fill the void of what the chemicals that fill the flavor cartridges of e-cigarettes do to a user’s body.

It’s a buyer beware market. Regulators are struggling to keep up, and tobacco companies are becoming entrenched in an industry that grows every day.

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