PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
Electronic cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in the United States, and the authors of this study sought to determine the perception of youth regarding their harm and addictiveness versus other tobacco products.
A cross-sectional survey of students in grades 6 to 12 was performed.
Data from the 2012 and 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey were analyzed to describe correlates of perceptions of harm and addictiveness of e-cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco compared with cigarettes and to assess trends in perceptions of e-cigarettes’ harm among different demographic groups.
In 2014, the majority of students (73%) believed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes, compared with 20% for smokeless tobacco and 25.8% for cigars. In addition, 47% postulated that e-cigarettes were less addictive than cigarettes, compared with only 14% for smokeless tobacco and 31.5% for cigars. Factors associated with perception of decreased harm and addictiveness included the use of the product, being a boy, being non-Hispanic white, and having a household member who used the product. Between 2012 and 2014, youth increasingly believed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes.
The majority of US youth perceive e-cigarettes as less harmful and addictive than cigarettes. Perceived safety parallels the rise in the use of e-cigarettes.
There are a number of original research articles in Pediatrics this year dealing with the meteoric rise in the use of e-cigarettes by children. The authors of this study are limited in their conclusions by the study’s cross-sectional nature, reliance on self-reported data, and the lack of individual-level investigation of alterations in the perception and use of e-cigarettes over time. Nonetheless, the conclusion still stands that children in grades 6 to 12 perceive e-cigarettes as safer than their counterpart tobacco products, which is likely contributing to the rapid rise in e-cigarette use. Additional contributors include the low cost of these products and the ability to use them anywhere, as is demonstrated in another study (Bold KW et al. Pediatrics. 2016;138:e20160895); these factors may also influence use in adolescents who would not have used tobacco products otherwise (Barrington-Trimis JL et al. Pediatrics. 2016;138:e20153983).
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