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Electronic cigarette use and smoking initiation among youth: a longitudinal cohort study [Research]

BACKGROUND:

The influence of e-cigarette use on smoking initiation is a highly controversial issue, with limited longitudinal data available for examining temporal associations. We examined e-cigarette use and its association with cigarette-smoking initiation at 1-year follow-up within a large cohort of Canadian secondary school students.

METHODS:

We analyzed data from students in grades 9–12 who participated in 2 waves of COMPASS, a cohort study of purposefully sampled secondary schools in Ontario and Alberta, Canada, at baseline (2013/14) and 1-year follow-up (2014/15). We assessed cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use at baseline and follow-up using self-completed surveys. We used generalized linear mixed-effects models to examine correlates of past 30-day e-cigarette use at baseline and smoking initiation between waves within the longitudinal sample.

RESULTS:

Past 30-day e-cigarette use increased from 2013/14 to 2014/15 (7.2% v. 9.7%, p < 0.001), whereas past 30-day cigarette smoking decreased slightly (11.4% v. 10.8%, p = 0.02). Among the 44 163 students evaluated at baseline, past 30-day e-cigarette use was strongly associated with smoking status and smoking susceptibility. In the longitudinal sample (n = 19 130), past 30-day use of e-cigarettes at baseline was associated with initiation of smoking a whole cigarette (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.12, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.68–2.66) and with initiation of daily smoking (adjusted OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.41–2.28) at follow-up.

INTERPRETATION:

E-cigarette use was strongly associated with cigarette smoking behaviour, including smoking initiation at follow-up. The causal nature of this association remains unclear, because common factors underlying the use of both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes may also account for the temporal order of initiation.

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