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"While e-cigarettes are frequently used as devices for smoking cessation in adults, we found most students in our survey [including 47.8 percent of those who recently smoked cigarettes] were motivated by the 'cool/fun/something new' features of e-cigarettes," the study authors wrote.
Dr. Michael Khoury, a pediatric cardiology resident at Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, led the research during a previous residency at The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto.
The study involved nearly 2,400 students in Ontario, aged 14 and 15. The teens were asked about their e-cigarette use, including why they tried them and how often they used them.
Seven out of 10 respondents, almost 1,600 students, knew about e-cigarettes. Nearly 25 percent said they learned about them from a store display or advertisement. Just over 10 percent (238 of the teens) had used them.
E-cigarette use was more common among boys who said they already smoked cigarettes or used other tobacco products, or have friends and family members who do, the study found.
The researchers also found the teens aren't using them to stop smoking.
"Use of e-cigarettes was [also] associated with lower self-identified health level, greater stress level and a lower estimated household income, which suggests that e-cigarette use may have some key associations that may help to identify adolescents at risk," Khoury and colleagues wrote.
The authors said their findings may not be representative of all teens. But they called for strict regulations on e-cigarette use among young people, for advertising restrictions and a ban on e-cigarette flavorings.
In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new rule prohibiting retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18.
The study was published July 18 in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), news release, July 18, 2016