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Adolescents who use e-cigarettes three-to-five times more likely to start smoking, new review says

The Health Research Board’s review will help inform Department of Health policy.

Image: Shutterstock/Amani A

ADOLESCENTS WHO USE e-cigarettes are three-to-five times more likely to start smoking tobacco cigarettes compared to those who have never used e-cigarettes.

That’s according to a new review from the Health Research Board (HRB), conducted to help inform Department of Health policy regarding e-cigarettes.

The review also found that e-cigarettes are no more effective than approved and regulated nicotine replacement therapies – such as gum, patches, lozenges – to help people stop smoking.

The HRB said that e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device are not regulated or approved, and their safety beyond 12 months is not yet known.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to examine if teenagers are being targeted by the vaping industry in Ireland. See how you can support this project here.

The dual use of both e-cigarettes and conventional tobacco cigarettes wasn’t less harmful than smoking tobacco alone, the HRB said. 

It also pointed to acute effects of e-cigarettes including poisonings, burns, blast injuries, lung injury and asthmatic attacks. It added that some of the chemicals in e-cigarettes are thought to cause tissue and cell damages, and some are agents that may cause cancer in the long term. 

The HRB also stressed that the long-term health effects beyond 24 months are not yet fully researched. Its review was based on analysis of existing research and literature into e-cigarettes and their effects. 

Dr Jean Long, the head of the HRB’s evidence centre, said: “Our findings also highlight that e-cigarettes have the potential to negatively impact on the health of adolescents, leaving them more likely to initiate tobacco smoking. These factors would have to be considered as part of any smoking harm reduction strategy.

Our findings highlight that it is important more is done to promote NRT and protect the health of adolescents and vulnerable groups before considering the role of unregulated e-cigarettes as a harm reduction approach.

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Last year, then-Minister for Health Simon Harris pledged to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children. Legislation to enact this has been examined by the Department of Health. 

HRB chief executive Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll said: “This HRB review is already informing forthcoming HSE good practice guidelines to help people stop smoking and these will take into consideration the place of the e-cigarette when trying to stop smoking. The Department of Health have also prepared legislation which will look at licensing of retail outlets and banning e-cigarettes for young people under 18 years of age.”

About the author:

Sean Murray

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