SUNDAY, May 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A small number of young parents are using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), while a wide majority of young adults believe e-cigarettes are less hazardous than regular cigarettes, according to a new survey.
There's a great deal of debate over the safety of e-cigarettes, which are mainly promoted as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes and as a way to stop smoking. E-cigarettes use battery power to create a nicotine vapor that is inhaled, but doesn't produce the tobacco smoke created by a cigarette.
Some varieties of e-cigarettes are flavored, but some have also been found to be contaminated with toxic chemicals.
Researchers surveyed 3,253 adults in 2013. Of the 88 percent who completed the survey, 8 percent were aged 18 to 24, and 22 percent of those were parents.
Of the young parents, 13 percent said they'd tried e-cigarettes, 6 percent within the last month. About half of both groups had never smoked regular cigarettes or were former smokers. Just over 80 percent said they thought e-cigarettes might be better for them than regular cigarettes.
All of the young adults reported using e-cigarettes flavored with menthol or fruit flavors, according to the survey. Only 7 percent of the young adults were using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking.
"This study has two alarming findings," said lead author Robert McMillen, coordinator of the Tobacco Control Unit at Mississippi State University, in a statement provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. "First, the risks of e-cigarette use and exposure to vapor are unknown, yet many parents report using these electronic cigarettes to reduce harm to others. Second, half of current users are nonsmokers, suggesting that unlike tobacco harm-reduction products, e-cigarettes contribute to primary nicotine addiction and to renormalization of smoking behaviors."
The findings were to be presented May 4 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver. Findings presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about e-cigarettes, go to Smokefree.gov.