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Reported electronic cigarette use among adolescents in the Niagara region of Ontario [Research]

Background:

Use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) among adolescents has not been fully described, in particular their motivations for using them and factors associated with use. We sought to evaluate the frequency, motivations and associated factors for e-cigarette use among adolescents in Ontario.

Methods:

We conducted a cross-sectional study in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada, involving universal screening of students enrolled in grade 9 in co-operation with the Heart Niagara Inc. Healthy Heart Schools’ Program (for the 2013–2014 school year). We used a questionnaire to assess cigarette, e-cigarette and other tobacco use, and self-rated health and stress. We assessed household income using 2011 Canadian census data by matching postal codes to census code.

Results:

Of 3312 respondents, 2367 answered at least 1 question in the smoking section of the questionnaire (1274 of the 2367 respondents [53.8%] were male, with a mean [SD] age of 14.6 [0.5] yr) and 2292 answered the question about use of e-cigarettes. Most respondents to the questions about use of e-cigarettes (n = 1599, 69.8%) had heard of e-cigarettes, and 380 (23.8%) of these respondents had learned about them from a store sign or display. Use of e-cigarettes was reported by 238 (10.4%) students. Most of the respondents who reported using e-cigarettes (171, 71.9%) tried them because it was “cool/fun/new,” whereas 14 (5.8%) reported using them for smoking reduction or cessation. Male sex, recent cigarette or other tobacco use, family members who smoke and friends who smoke were strongly associated with reported e-cigarette use. Reported use of e-cigarettes was associated with self-identified fair/poor health rating (odds ratio [OR] 1.9 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2–3.0), p < 0.001), high stress level (OR 1.7 (95% CI 1.1–2.7), p < 0.001) and lower mean (33.4 [8.4] x $1000 v. 36.1 [10.7] x $1000, p = 0.001) and median [interquartile range] (26.2 [5.6] x $1000 v. 28.1 [5.7] x $1000) household incomes.

Interpretation:

Use of e-cigarettes is common among adolescents in the Niagara region and is associated with sociodemographic features. Engaging in seemingly exciting new behaviours appears to be a key motivating factor rather than smoking cessation.

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