THURSDAY, May 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- When young smokers see someone "vape" a smokeless e-cigarette, it may help trigger the urge to smoke a traditional cigarette, a new study finds.
"There could be effects of being in the company of an e-cigarette user, particularly for young smokers," study author Andrea King, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, said in a statement provided by the university.
"For example, it's possible that seeing e-cigarette use may promote more smoking behavior and less quitting," she said.
In the study, 60 young adult smokers took part in what they thought was a study about social interactions. An actor talked to them while smoking an e-cigarette or regular cigarette, and then the participants were tested about their urge to smoke.
Watching someone else smoke an e-cigarette boosted the urge to smoke a regular cigarette at about the same level as watching someone smoke a regular cigarette, according to researchers.
"We know from past research that seeing regular cigarette use is a potent cue for someone to want to smoke," King said. "We did not know if seeing e-cigarette use would produce the same effect [on smokers], but that is exactly what we found. When we retested participants 20 minutes after exposure, the desire to smoke remained elevated."
The researchers stress that the study took place in a laboratory setting, so it's not clear what would happen in real life.
"E-cigarette use has increased dramatically over the past few years, so observations and passive exposure will no doubt increase as well," King noted.
The study appeared this month in the journal Tobacco Control.
For more on quitting smoking, head to the American Cancer Society.