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Which Teens View Vaping as a Health Threat? Survey Offers Clues

MONDAY, Jan. 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Some groups of American teens are more likely than others to view e-cigarettes as a health threat, a new study suggests.

That list includes girls, whites, LGBTQ teens, teens living in the suburbs, and those from more affluent and better-educated families.

Vaping rates among U.S. teens are high. More than 1 in 4 high school students regularly use e-cigarettes, and the number of middle schoolers using them surged nearly 50% last year.

"One of the challenges with educational efforts aimed at getting youth to stop using e-cigarettes or preventing them from starting is that many believe e-cigarettes are harmless," said study lead author Dr. Thanh-Huyen Vu. She's a research assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"But many teenagers aren't aware that e-cigarette products contain nicotine just as traditional cigarettes do, and there are proven, long-term health risks associated with nicotine, as well as with some of the other toxins and chemicals found in these products," Vu said in an American Heart Association (AHA) news release.

For this study, researchers conducted an online survey of more than 3,000 U.S. teens, ages 13 to 18. Respondents included both e-cigarette users and those who had never used them.

Overall, nearly 63% said nicotine in e-cigarettes might pose health risks, including 71% of those who'd never used them and nearly half of current e-cigarette users.

The study, conducted by AHA's Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science, also found that:

  • Girls were 60% more likely than boys to consider e-cigarettes harmful, and whites were 34% more likely to do so than blacks.

  • Suburban teens were 33% more apt to see vaping as harmful, compared to urban teens.

  • LGBTQ teens were 40% more likely to see harm in vaping than straight teens.

  • Teens from more affluent families were 28% were more likely than those from low-income families to consider e-cigarettes harmful, and teens whose parents had more education were 31% more likely to do so than those with less-educated parents.

Teens' opinions about the health risks of toxins and other chemicals in e-cigarettes were similar to those about nicotine, according to the study published Jan. 7 in the journal Health Promotion Practice.

Vu said that "a better understanding of how teens perceive e-cigarette products and their health consequences can help us tailor messaging for parents and guardians, teachers and coaches, anyone working closely with youth to improve how we're communicating with them."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice on explaining the risks of e-cigarettes to youths.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Jan. 7, 2020

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