Bioethics Blogs

Lighting Up New Interest in Teen Smoking Behavior: E-Cigarette Use

Adolescence is known to be a time of experimentation and
pushing towards the independence of adulthood. Risk taking, heightened need for
social validation, and evolving independent self-hood are hallmarks of this
important stage of life. Smoking is often viewed as a behavior that marks
adulthood, and is sometimes seen as rebellious against norms (and laws)
restricting purchase and use until age 18. Research in discreet regions of the
US shows that e-cigarettes are more likely to be the source of nicotine exposure
students in 11
th and 12 grades, rather than ignited products.
This same
article elucidates the psychosocial factors linked to e-cigarette use, and
finds that some of the determinants correlated with use in teens are prior
cigarette use, having a household member using e-cigarettes, and peer
endorsement of using e-cigarettes. The study found that current users did not
feel there were health risks related to using e-cigarettes.

The question asked in this NY Times blog is what the
correlation might be between e-cigarette use and combustible tobacco use
Are e-cigarettes a new pathway to tobacco use, and therefore dangerous by
association? Just how dangerous are the vapors inhaled from e-cigarettes
themselves? The concern is that there are now simply more teens using smoking
products overall, thanks to the e-cigarette. “The numbers suggest that rather
than prompting teenagers to replace cigarette smoking with vaping, e-cigarettes
instead have enticed an entirely new group of teenagers to use nicotine” according
to the NY Times piece, and based on the most recent work by

As noted in the various articles linked here, it is unclear
what long term health effects will impact e-cigarette users and how use of
these products will correlate to combustible tobacco products, though the early
data suggests there is a connection.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.