TUESDAY, March 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Electronic cigarettes are used by both smoking and nonsmoking teens, and are associated with drinking and other risky behaviors, a new study finds.
"We found that e-cigarette access is strongly related to alcohol use in teenagers," said study author Karen Hughes. She is a professor of behavioral epidemiology at Liverpool John Moores University in England.
"Those who drink are more likely to have accessed e-cigarettes than nondrinkers regardless of whether they smoke normal cigarettes or not, and those who drink frequently, binge drink, drink to get drunk, drink strong alcohol products, and show signs of unsupervised alcohol consumption are most likely to have accessed e-cigarettes," said Hughes in a news release from BMC Public Health.
The study was published in the journal on March 30.
The researchers from the university surveyed more than 16,000 students, aged 14 to 17, in England and found that 20 percent of them had used e-cigarettes.
Of those who had tried e-cigarettes, 16 percent had never smoked, 23 percent had tried smoking but didn't like it, nearly 36 percent were regular smokers, nearly 12 percent only smoked when drinking, and nearly 14 percent were ex-smokers.
Students who drank alcohol were much more likely to use e-cigarettes than nondrinkers, and those who regularly binge drank were four times more likely to use e-cigarettes than those who didn't drink, according to the study.
Among those who drank, e-cigarette use was associated with binge drinking and violence after drinking, regardless of whether they smoked. These findings suggest that teens who use e-cigarettes are at risk for other types of substance use and risk-taking, according to the researchers.
Fellow study author Mark Bellis said, "Our research suggests that we should be very concerned about teenagers accessing e-cigarettes. While debate on e-cigarettes has focused largely on whether or not they act as a gateway to tobacco cigarette use, e-cigarettes themselves contain a highly addictive drug that may have more serious and longer lasting impacts on children because their brains are still developing."
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.