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E-cigarette use up among young non-smokers

Intervention is needed given that long-term consequences of electronic cigarette use are mostly unknown.

A new ACS study finds that the largest population increase in electronic cigarette users is among younger adults who have never smoked combustible cigarettes. The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Researchers led by Priti Bandi, PhD, principal scientist, Risk Factors Surveillance Research, assessed trends in the prevalence of e-cigarette use and population count of e-cigarette users in younger (18–29 years), middle-aged (30–49 years), and older (≥50 years.) U.S. adults between 2014 and 2018. The most notable finding was a near tripling of e-cigarette use among younger adults who never smoked combustible cigarettes – from 1.3% to 3.3%.

This increase suggests rising primary nicotine initiation with e-cigarettes. When combined with a large and growing prevalence and population of never-smokers nationally, this increase represents the largest absolute increase in never-smoking e-cigarette users – from 400,000 in 2014 to 1.35 million in 2014. 

The authors also note substantial increases in e-cigarette use among near-term quitters (i.e. those who quit combustible cigarettes 1-8 years ago, when e-cigarettes proliferated the U.S. retail market) across all age groups. This trend suggests continued use of e-cigarette devices among those who may have switched from cigarettes previously, potentially for nicotine maintenance. 

“Urgent efforts are needed to address the potential rise in primary nicotine initiation with e-cigarettes among younger adults. It is also important to aid the transition of e-cigarette users—particularly among younger adults—to non-use of all tobacco or nicotine products given that the long-term consequences of e-cigarette use are mostly unknown,” said Priti.

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