January 28, 2015

COPH researchers link cigarette use in the home to children’s use of e-cigarettes

C O P H Associate Professor Department of Epidemiology Victor Cardenas, M D, M P H, P h D, F A C E

Victor Cardenas, Ph.D.

Children who live with a smoker are significantly more likely to have ever used e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, according to a study published this month by researchers in the Department of Epidemiology at the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and their colleagues. In fact, children who live with smokers are more likely to believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, compared with children not living with a smoker.

“Ever used” was defined in the study as having tried cigarettes, even just one or two puffs.

The study, “The smoking habits of the family influence the uptake of e-cigarettes in US children,” appeared this month in the Annals of Epidemiology. Lead author was Victor Cardenas, M.D., MPH, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the COPH.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the 2011-2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which is in its seventh annual cycle and is conducted by the CDC. It includes a national, representative sample of middle and high school students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Among those who lived with a smoker, the prevalence of ever using both cigarettes and e-cigarettes was three-fold of that for children not living with a smoker.

The study found that the use of e-cigarettes differed by age, race/ethnicity and gender. Ever using e-cigarettes was most common with boys (8.1%) and non-Hispanic Native Americans (9.6%) and increased by age (1.5% for ages 9 to 12, 6.3% for ages 13 to 16, and 12.8% for ages 17 to 18).

After adjusting for the influence of gender, age, race/ethnicity, and smoking history, the prevalence of ever using e-cigarettes was 30% more among those children who lived with a smoker compared with those who did not.

Even among children who had never tried smoking, living with a smoker doubled the prevalence of ever trying e-cigarettes. These findings are congruent with previous studies on smoking behaviors.

The authors called for “regulatory action” in the way of labeling of e-cigarettes that warns parents to keep these products out of the reach of children, as well as longitudinal research to address issues around e-cigarettes and their impacts on children.