A study conducted by the University of Queensland (UQ) on teenagers across 44 different countries concluded that increased tax on tobacco was associated with increased e-cigarette consumption among adolescents.
“We found that higher tobacco taxes were associated with higher levels of youth vaping,” said lead author Dr. Gary Chan. “This could suggest that young people in countries with a higher tobacco tax might be substituting traditional cigarettes with e-cigarettes.”
The study examined 151 960 children aged 12 to 16’s World Health Organisation (WHO) surveys taken from 2015 to 2018. Children were asked about their tobacco and e-cigarette consumption.
The authors observed that adolescents living in countries where more than 75 percent of the tobacco price was the added tax were six times more likely to vape than children in countries with a tobacco tax that is less than 25 percent of the overall price, indicating evidence of possibly substituting traditional cigarettes with electronic ones.
The authors noted that this phenomenon might be considered a benefit to public health if adolescents making the conversion were from populations within the “high-risk” group for smoking.
Overall, relatively low proportions of adolescents consumed e-cigarettes, with one in 12 adolescents in the survey confirming that they have vaped in the past 30 days whereas only one in 60 adolescents would be considered frequent vapers that vape for more than 10 days a month.
“This result suggests that most adolescents who vaped were experimenting with e-cigarettes or using them infrequently rather than habitually,” read the study.
Nonetheless, the authors noted that the decline of youth smoking through increased uptake of e-cigarettes posed a concern “that nicotine use will be renormalized for a new generation and result in future adverse health impacts.”
The researchers urged for strong regulations to protect the younger generations from vaping, however policies regulating e-cigarettes have varied across different countries with some regulating it as a tobacco, some as consumer products and in the case of Australia, as medicinal.
“We hope the results will be used to develop and implement comprehensive global strategies and policies to limit the increase of e-cigarette use in low and middle-income countries,” said Chan.
A previous study co-authored by Chan found TikTok exposes young people to videos that could reinforce a positive attitude towards vaping and e-cigarette usage, with little reference to health consequences.
“Considering how accessible these videos are to young people, and previous studies associating exposure to vaping-related content with increased e-cigarette use, age restrictions on social media platforms are recommended.”