"Given the lack of clarity regarding the mechanism linking e-cigarette and cigarette use, we need to be cautious in making policy recommendations based on our findings".
The researchers, in order to find if there is any link between increased use of tobacco and e-cigarette, had also analyzed teenagers who had already smoked a minimum of one cigarette at the beginning of the survey.
Writing in an online-first publication in Tobacco Control, Mark Conner, MD (University of Leeds, England), and colleagues report that in a cohort of 2,836 adolescents, e-cigarette use was strongly associated with subsequent cigarette smoking. "But it's not - smoking amongst young people in the United Kingdom is at an all-time low".
"Without knowing details about device attributes, user experiences and motivations for e-cigarette use, reasons for low cessation rates among infrequent e-cigarette users are unclear", stated the study's second author Cristine Delnevo from Rutgers School of Public Health.
As per the official statistics, among young people, there is an increase in the usage of e-cigarettes and decrease in the usage of cigarettes; this is contradictory to the findings of this study, says Prof.
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The researchers say it is also plausible that the use of e-cigarettes "normalises" smoking or leads to nicotine addiction - although, as of yet, there is no evidence of that.
And occasional smokers at baseline were almost twice as likely to escalate their habit if they had tried e-cigarettes as were those who hadn't experimented with vaping (just over 24% compared with just under 13%).
Among the group who had not smoked and never used an e-cigarette, the figure was 124 out of 1383 (just under nine percent). However, there are concerns that these forms of smoking will be used as a gateway to smoking with cigarettes.
They were re-surveyed a year later - and asked if they had tried a conventional cigarette, and how often. Out of the 248 participants who had tried an e-cigarette, 60 children (24%) were identified with an increase in cigarette smoking, while 9 out of the 70 children (13%), who had not tried an e-cigarette the same.
The evidence also showed that e-cigarettes heightened the chances of teenagers who already had a history of smoking increasing their tobacco consumption.
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This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, something which the researchers are eager to emphasise.
Of note, however, 19.9% of adolescents surveyed said they had tried e-cigarettes at baseline but had never smoked.
The proportion of schoolchildren who had used an e-cigarette and reported starting to smoke within a year, compared with children who had not tried an e-cigarette and reported starting to smoke over the same time period.
Yet, they add more research into the subject is required.
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