While electronic cigarettes may be marketed as alternatives that will keep teenagers away from tobacco, a study suggests that may not be the case.

Trying e cigarettes increased the odds that a teenager would also try tobacco cigarettes and become regular smokers, the study found. Those who said they had ever used an e cigarette were six times more likely to try tobacco than ones who had never tried the e cig.

Researchers from the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed data from the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey, a federal questionnaire administered to students in grades 6 through 12 in middle and high schools nationwide. It asked teenagers whether they smoked electronic or tobacco cigarettes or both.

The survey found that students&#39 use of electronic cigarettes doubled from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent in 2011 and 2012. But the number of smokers declined only slightly, from 5 percent to 2011 to 4 percent in 2012.

Teenagers who smoked were more likely to use e cigarettes, and vice versa. In 2012, 57 percent of those who had tried cigarettes had also tried e cigarettes. And 26 percent of current smokers used e cigs as well. By contrast, 4 percent of teens who had never smoked had tried e cigs, and 1 percent said they use them currently.

E cigarettes don&#39 t burn tobacco. Instead, a battery heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into a vapor that&#39 s inhaled into the lungs.

Director Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has called the rise of e cigarette use among teenagers “alarming,” because nicotine is still an addictive drug. Frieden also has expressed concern that electronic cigarettes may be a gateway to tobacco cigarettes.

“The adolescent human brain may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine because it is still developing,” the authors write. Their study was published Thursday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study is one of the first to try to get a grip on how e cigarettes affect tobacco use. It couldn&#39 t look at whether e cig use caused tobacco use, or vice versa, or why teenagers decided to use the products. And it doesn&#39 t answer the question of whether teenagers used e cigarettes in order to avoid tobacco.

Although cigarette makers deny they target teenage customers, researchers say the companies aggressively market glamorous and sexy images that appeal to a teenager&#39 s sense of rebellion and tendency toward risky behavior. Those same tactics are now being used for e cigarette ads, tobacco control advocates say.

The electronic versions also come in a variety of flavors like strawberry, watermelon and licorice. There are far more restrictions on tobacco cigarettes including a ban on offering sweet or fruity flavors, as well as restrictions on advertising and sales to minors. The Food and Drug Administraiton is currently considering whether and how much to regulate electronic cigarettes.

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Making cigarettes invisible: hiding tobacco found to reduce sales – abc perth – australian broadcasting corporation

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The study, by researchers from Edith Cowan University, found there has been a 30 per cent drop in spontaneous tobacco purchases since WA banned the display of cigarette packets in shops in 2010.

Terry Slevin, director of education and research at the Cancer Council of WA, said the reduction in tobacco sales is an encouraging sign and shows the display ban was effective.

“It reduced the impact of that wall of cigarettes in front of them. What this research proved is that it had prompted them to make a spontaneous purchase,” Mr Slevin told 720 Mornings.

“It is important because that supply of having the extra packet in the bag or in the pocket or in the car means people are more likely to smoke and do more damage to their health.”

Fifteen per cent of Western Australians, around 300,000 people, are smokers. The Western Australian government reviews tobacco control legislation every five years, and it is due for review again soon.

Terry Slevin says the next step is to investigate removing the boards in shops which list the brands and prices of cigarettes for sale.

“It’s still a visual prompt and it’s always in a prominent spot immediately behind the cash register.

“We should make cigarettes less available and even less visible. That list of brands and prices is still a reminder that the product is there and that smokers can get them immediately.”

Mr Slevin also wants the government to investigate the accessibility of tobacco products in supermarkets, petrol stations, pubs and convenience stores.

“We’ve also got a situation where they are the most available product in our society.

“There are more places where you can buy tobacco than where you can buy the basics of life like milk and bread.”

The suggestions drew a mixed response from 720 listeners. On Twitter, Scott Thompson ( scott thompson1) wrote I hate smoking as well but as a retailer of tobacco products I think enough has been done for now.

Judy commented that “Smokers thought they had all these rights and how dare anybody interfere with their right to smoke.

“As a tax payer I find it really offensive that smokers think that all other non smoking tax payers have to pay for hospitals and doctors and all the costs that go into their health problems, they forget about that. They cost the community a fortune.”

Caller Ivan, a smoker, said the proposals would further ostracise smokers.

“Taking down price boards isn’t going to stop me from smoking,” he said.

“Smokers when they go into a shop, go in there intending to buy cigarettes.”

Terry Slevin says smokers need to understand that anti tobacco initiatives are aimed at the industry, not at individuals.

“I understand smokers getting defensive when the issue is raised, because most, we know, want to quit, and it’s a highly addictive product,” he explained.

“But they don’t take into the efforts of the industry that is flogging this product it’s worked for decades to ensure its product is available.

“We’re very keen to help individual smokers avoid suffering the enormous health consequences of smoking.”

See the research paper online ‘Impact of a point of sale tobacco display ban on smokers’ spontaneous purchases’