On Monday, the FDA started a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors. Part of the reason might be new evidence suggesting that e-cigarettes can lead minors to begin smoking combustible cigarettes.
The oral health impact of e-cigarettes is not known. Although we know that some formulations of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can have some impact on oral health, and that there are several other chemicals also found in e-cigarettes that may be damaging to oral health. This includes formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can lead to oral cancer. And we do know that they have a tendency to explode, which can cause serious oral injuries.
But what we haven’t known is whether e-cigarette use leads to the use of tobacco cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products, which have many negative oral health effects, such as increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss. Now we have a hint: a new study seems to indicate that e-cigarettes are drawing more teens and young adults to use tobacco, putting them at serious risk for oral health complications in the future.
Reversing a Two-Decade Trend
Researchers used data from the Southern California Children’s Health Study (CHS) to lay the groundwork for their conclusions. The Children’s Health Study is a longitudinal cohort study. This means that they selected groups of children (cohorts) and then followed them for a long period of time (the longitude of the study). In the CHS, cohorts were taken from certain classrooms in certain schools and were set to reach the 12th grade in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2014. This study looked at data from the 11th and 12th grade years of each cohort, looking at tobacco use in each.
They found that for the first time in two decades, the smoking rate had increased, if one included e-cigarette use as well as tobacco cigarette use. The usage rate in 2014 was 13.7%, compared to just 9% in 2004, although not yet as high as the 14.7% use rate in 2001.
These trends were reflected in the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), which showed an increasing use of e-cigarettes, and a stop in the decline of cigarette use. While cigarette use had dropped from 35% in the mid-1990s to 15.8% in 2011 and 9.2% in 2014, there was a slight, insignificant increase in tobacco cigarette use from 2014 to 2015, up to 9.3%. And current e-cigarette use now exceeded current use of tobacco cigarettes for the first time.
Although this isn’t much of an uptick, it is certainly enough to cause some concern, especially if we can link current e-cigarette use with future use of tobacco cigarettes.
E-Cigarette Use Seems to Lead to Tobacco Use
And that’s exactly what this study was able to do, although the data isn’t very strong.
To follow up on the data from the CHS, researchers sent surveys to participants in the 2014 cohort. They were looking for those who had reported themselves as e-cigarette users but never-smokers and those who were simply never-smokers. They asked these CHS participants whether they had started smoking combustible cigarettes now that they were over 18 and legally able to purchase them.
The found that teens who had been using e-cigarettes during 11th or 12th grade were six times more likely to use combustible cigarettes than those that hadn’t used either cigarettes or e-cigarettes. When looking at the use of any combustible tobacco product, the increased risk wasn’t quite as great–e-cigarette use made teens five times more likely to smoke cigars, pipes, or hookahs.
Quit Smoking to Preserve Your Oral Health
If you are currently a smoker, the time to quit is now. Cigarette smoking can double your risk of tooth loss, and it can also significantly increase your risk of serious gum disease. Gum disease causes a host of other health problems, and it can make it harder to replace missing teeth with dental implants. The reason to quit now is that it can take decades for your oral health to become similar to that of a never-smoker.
If you are looking for a Rochester, NY dentist who understands the links between your overall health and your oral health, then please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment at Contemporary Dentistry.