It seems that almost every issue of our journal contains a study on risks pertaining to e-cigarettes or combustible tobacco products—all involving teen use. But what do adolescents think of e-cigarettes as well as other non-cigarette tobacco products? Amrock et al. were curious about this question and used data from a national cross sectional survey given to students in grades 6 to 12 in 2012 and 2014 to better understand how much they knew about the harm and addictiveness of e-cigarettes as well as of smokeless tobacco and cigars compared to cigarettes.
Sadly almost three-quarters of teens in 2014 thought e-cigarettes were less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, compared to approximately a quarter of teems thinking smokeless tobacco and cigars were less harmful. Half the teens surveyed thought e-cigarettes were less addictive, and smokeless tobacco and cigars were considered similarly from an addiction standpoint.
Clearly we have a problem in getting information out to teens about the risks and addictive properties of e-cigarettes compared to the more traditional tobacco alternative— cigarettes. About two months ago, we published a commentary by Dr. Jonathan Winikoff and his daughter (a high school student) that should be a must-read for any of us and in turn our teen patients to read to help launch a student-led campaign to educate teens about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes.
Until then this study stands as a wake-up call to all of us to recognize we have a lot to do to get e-cigarettes into the same category as other tobacco products and not just have our teens view these devices as benign pipe-dreams when they are more like health nightmares. Read the study and search for the commentary by Winikoff on our website and see what we mean.