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Study fuels push for FDA e-cigarette regulation

New JAMA study finds young e-smokers are more likely to try tobacco

In 2013, researchers at the University of Southern California surveyed 2,530 ninth-graders from 10 area high schools who said they had never smoked tobacco. But 222 students in this group of mostly 14-year-olds did report trying e-cigarettes. When surveyed six and then 12 months later, the adolescents that had previously vaped were more likely to have tried smoking tobacco.

In the first follow up, 31% of those who admitted using e-cigarettes in the original survey said they had subsequently tried smoking tobacco compared with 8% in the group that had never used e-cigarettes. After 12 months, 25% of the e-smoking group said they had smoked tobacco in the past six months compared with 9% in the non-e-smoking group.

The JAMA report was accompanied by two editorials that noted how electronic smoking is a $2.2 billion industry in the U.S.

Some argue that e-cigarettes help smokers quit or receive their nicotine in a less harmful way. One of the editorial writers, however, noted that the argument does not apply to adolescents, so that advertising to teens should cease.

Researchers note that "the social backdrop of early adolescence" and the teens' still-developing brains make them particularly susceptible to the effects of nicotine. Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chief medical toxicologist at Children's Mercy Kansas City in Missouri agreed.

"The brain is not fully developed until probably the mid-20s and the last part to develop is the pre-frontal lobe which is in charge of motivation, memory, behavior and movement," Lowry said. "Nicotine can impair connections being made in the frontal lobe and increase addiction so it's harder to come off of later."

Read more via ModernHealthcare.com.