Friday, March 7th, 2014
Young people who start smoking by using e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but no tobacco tar or smoke, are more likely to eventually smoke real cigarettes–and less likely to quit smoking altogether than those who do not use e-cigarettes, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The New York Times has more on the study, which is getting a divided response from experts:
The study’s lead author, Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who has been critical of the devices, said the results suggested that e-cigarettes, whose use is growing rapidly among youth and adults, were leading to less quitting, not more.
“The use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents,” the study concluded. It was published online in JAMA Pediatrics on Thursday.
But other experts said the data did not support that interpretation. . They said that just because e-cigarettes are being used by youths who smoke more and have a harder time quitting does not mean that the devices themselves are the cause of those problems. It is just as possible, they said, that youths who use the devices were heavier smokers to begin with or would have become heavy smokers.
“The data in this study do not allow many of the broad conclusions that it draws,” said Thomas J. Glynn, a researcher at the American Cancer Society.
The study is likely to further stir the debate over what electronic cigarettes mean for the nation’s 45 million smokers, three million of whom are adolescents. Some experts worry that e-cigarettes is a gateway to smoking real cigarettes for young people, though most say the data is too skimpy to settle the issue. Others hope the devices could be a path to quitting.
So far, the overwhelming majority of young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke real cigarettes, a large federal survey published last year found.
Still, while e-cigarette use among youth doubled from 2011 to 2012, cigarette smoking for youth has continued to decline. The smoking rate hit a record low in 2013 of 9.6 percent, down by two-thirds from its peak in 1997.
The new study drew on broad federal survey data from more than 17,000 middle school and high school students in 2011 and more than 22,000 in 2012. But instead of following the same students over time – which many experts say is crucial to determine whether there has been a progression from e-cigarettes to actual smoking — the study examined two different groups of students, essentially creating two snapshots.
Image: Teen smoking e-cigarette, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
Teens who smoke cigarettes–even those who don’t smoke “heavily,” can quickly alter their brain structure in ways that were previously thought to be reserved for long-time smokers. These are the findings of a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, which found that smoking one pack of cigarettes or less each day can lead to brain patterns that lock people into dependence on nicotine. More from Time.com:
Add a Comment
[Edythe] London and her colleagues focused on a brain region called the insula, since previous studies in animal and adults showed that its size and volume were affected by smoking. Of the regions in the cortical, or memory, awareness and language parts of the brain, the insula contains the most receptors for nicotine. The region is responsible for decision-making and helping to establish a person’s conscious awareness of his internal state. In studies of stroke patients, smokers who lost function of the right insula in the stroke quit smoking, and reported feeling no cravings for nicotine. And in earlier studies London’s team conducted, they found a strong relationship between how much smokers who watched videos of people smoking experienced cravings for cigarettes and the activity of the insula, which lit up on PET scans.
When London’s team looked at the brains of the 18 smoking teens and 24 non-smoking adolescents, aged 16 to 21 years, using structural MRI, they found no differences overall in the insula region. But a closer examination revealed that the right insula of the smokers was thinner than those of the nonsmokers.
“The brain is still undergoing development when someone is in their late teens,” she says. “It’s possible that smoking during this period could have effects that could alter tobacco dependence later in life, and that the insult could alter the trajectory of brain development.”
While the study doesn’t establish whether the differences in the insula can lead to smoking, or is the result of smoking, London says it highlights the role that the brain region may play in how people respond to nicotine and cigarettes. “I think this is very exciting because it points to a vulnerability, a potential vulnerability factor either to become nicotine dependent or for the effects of smoking to ultimately alter the trajectory of brain development,” she says. That trajectory could affect not only smoking behavior but decision-making in general, since the insula is important in such assessments.
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Citing research on the health risks children face due to consistent exposure to second-hand smoke, British politicians have approved legislation that would prohibit adults from smoking in cars where children travel. More from Reuters:
The move comes after lobbying from health campaigners and the opposition Labour party, who cited research showing that smoking in cars exposed children to more concentrated smoke and caused health problems.
The government confirmed it would seek to implement a ban before an election in May next year, after lawmakers voted on Monday to give ministers the power to bring in the measure.
“The intention is for the secondary regulations to be in force ahead of May 2015,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said on Tuesday. “There is a particular issue around vehicles being a particularly confined space and the associated public health concerns.”
The ban has been criticized by some parliamentarians and lobbyists as an intrusion on individual freedoms.
Last year, Massachusetts considered legislation to ban smoking in cars where children travel, and committees are still debating the measure.
Image: Adult smoking in a car, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, January 27th, 2014
British officials have announced that it will ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, called e-cigarettes, to minors under age 18, citing health risks as well as the need for further medical research. In the U.S., e-cigarettes are the subject of similar concern and pressure for the government to regulate the devices. The number of U.S. teens who say they have tried the devices doubled in 2013. More on Britain’s announcement from Reuters:
E-cigarettes, which are puffed like a regular cigarette but deliver nicotine by vaporizing liquid rather than burning tobacco, have grown in popularity and some analysts predict the market could outpace conventional cigarettes within a decade.
“We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk- free,” England’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said in a statement.
She added that e-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and that variations in the strength of the nicotine solutions between different products meant they could end up being “extremely damaging” to young people’s health.
The global market for e-cigarettes was estimated at more than $2 billion last year by market consultant Euromonitor.
Under-18s are already banned from buying conventional cigarettes in Britain. Sunday’s announcement included plans to make it illegal for adults to buy regular cigarettes for consumption by under 18s.
Image: Electronic cigarette, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Being around people who smoke is dangerous for children diagnosed with asthma, but many times parents are hesitant to reveal to doctors the extent of their kids’ exposure to cigarette smoke. A new saliva-based test conducted on children admitted to the hospital for asthma-related issues confirms researchers’ suspicions–nearly 80 percent of the children’s saliva showed traces of cigarette smoke, but only a third of the parents had reported known cigarette exposure. More from Reuters:
What’s more, finding evidence of nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, in children’s saliva was a better predictor of whether they would need to come back to the hospital, compared to the information parents gave to doctors.
“We think saliva is a good and potentially useful test for assessing an important trigger for asthma,” Dr. Robert Kahn, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health.
Previous research has found that being exposed to tobacco can lead to airway problems and poor asthma control among children, Kahn and his colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.
By figuring out which children are being exposed to tobacco, doctors may be able to step in and identify and possibly eliminate the exposure, said Kahn, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
For example, if a parent is still smoking cigarettes and exposing the child to smoke, doctors can offer the parent smoking cessation tools while the child is hospitalized.
For the new study, the researchers assessed data from 619 children admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for asthma or other breathing problems between August 2010 and October 2011. The children were between one and 16 years old.
Image: Asthmatic child, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment