With the increasing use of e-cigarettes among Southern California teens, a team of researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) aimed to investigate how much a high school student’s social environment is a factor in the rise in use. Jessica L. Barrington-Trimis, a Keck School of Medicine postdoctoral researcher, and colleagues wrote that the concern is that widespread “favorable social perceptions” about vaping among members of a new generation might “contribute to the renormalization of tobacco products generally,” according to a Los Angeles Times news report.

The researchers used survey data collected between January and June 2014 from 2,084 11th and 12th grade students. A number of questions were asked by the researchers, including how many of them used e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes as well as their friends, and the participants were also asked to evaluate psychosocial factors involved in smoking and vaping, such as whether their peers approved or disapproved it and if members of their household smoked or vaped.

The results of the study showed that 24% of the teens reported ever having used e-cigarettes, with 9.6% saying they were current users. Also, boys were twice as likely as girls to be current users, and smoking cigarettes was less popular with only 18.7% of the respondents reporting that they had ever smoked. The research team also revealed that students who used e-cigarettes were likely to report that their friends approved of vaping.

Additional results of the study indicate that 34% of teens who were current e-cigarette users shared a home with another e-cigarette user, while only 7.3% of teens who had never used e-cigarettes did. Less than half (49.5%) of study subjects who had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days had three or four friends who also used them, and only 3.4% of subjects who had never used e-cigarettes did.

“Overall, students’ responses indicated a social environment more favorable to the use of e-cigarettes than to smoking cigarettes,” the research team wrote. However, “Both smoking and vaping shared common social risk factors, and a favorable e-cigarette social environment was strongly associated both with e-cigarette use and with smoking… Research is needed to determine whether the use of e-cigarettes by nonsmoking adolescents could function as a gateway to combustible cigarette use.”

The researchers also called additional research into the health effects of e-cigarettes.

Source: Los Angeles Times