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The research included 347 teens who were surveyed in 2014 at ages 17 to 18 and again in 2015.
First, researchers looked at those who said they'd never smoked a tobacco cigarette. In this group, those who reported using an e-cigarette at least once in the past 30 days in the first survey had a four times higher risk of having smoked a tobacco cigarette in the period between the two surveys, compared to those who had never used an e-cigarette.
Next, the researchers looked at those who said they had already tried smoking a tobacco cigarette. In this group, rates of tobacco cigarette use within the past 12 months were more than doubled for those who had used e-cigarettes compared to those who didn't.
The study also found that e-cigarette use appeared to influence whether or not teens thought tobacco smoking was dangerous.
Among teens who said they had never smoked at the time of the first survey, recent e-cigarette users were four times more likely than those who had never used e-cigarettes to no longer believe that cigarette smoking poses a major health risk. This may be because e-cigarette use desensitized teens to the dangers of smoking, the researchers suggested.
The study was published online Feb. 7 in the journal Tobacco Control.
The findings add to growing evidence that e-cigarette use is a "one-way bridge" to cigarette smoking among teens, according to Richard Miech, who's with the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
"The results support a desensitization process, whereby youth who 'vape' lower their perceived risk of cigarette smoking," he said in a journal news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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