The question

In recent years, many young people have been enticed to try the newest addition to smoking options: e-cigarettes. Might using e-cigarettes, or vaping, lead to smoking traditional cigarettes?

This study

The researchers analyzed data from nine studies, involving 17,389 adolescents and young adults, 14 to 30 years old. Study lengths varied, but most lasted one to two years. In that time, 30 percent of those who used e-cigarettes started smoking tobacco cigarettes, compared with 8 percent of those who had never vaped, making e-cigarette users nearly four times as likely as nonusers to become traditional smokers.

Who may be affected?

Young people who use e-cigarettes, which have been available on the U.S. market for about a decade. After a rapid increase in teen users, reaching 3 million in 2015, the number dropped to 2.2 million in 2016. The number of teens who smoke traditional cigarettes also has declined in recent years. E-cigarettes use a battery to heat up a liquid and create an aerosol, or vapor, that the user inhales. They do not contain tobacco, but many of the liquids do contain nicotine, along with flavorings and other additives. Health risks from nicotine include addiction and negative effects on a developing brain. Possible risks from other components of the liquid and aerosol have not been fully determined.


Young people who tried e-cigarettes, compared with those who did not, may have been more prone to taking risks and would have tried regular cigarettes anyway. The study was not long enough to assess whether those who started smoking became long-term smokers.

Find this study

Online in JAMA Pediatrics

Learn more

Information on e-cigarettes is available at kidshealth.­­­­­­­­­­org (click “for Parents” and search for “e-cig”) and at e-cigarettes.­surgeongeneral.gov.

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.