Students who have used electronic cigarettes by the time they start ninth grade are more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products within the next year, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
E-cigarettes are increasingly popular battery-operated devices marketed as a safer alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes. They produce flavored nicotine aerosol that looks and feels like tobacco smoke but without the tar or other chemicals produced by burning tobacco leaves. However, while e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, it is still unclear how safe they are. They still deliver nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. Also, vapor from some e-cigarette products has been found to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals.
The finding from an 18-month-long clinical trial strengthens hope that pharmacotherapy can break nicotine’s especially tenacious hold on people with serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.