Last November, Real Health reported that e-cigarette use (aka vaping) among young people had increased from 1.5 million users to more than 3.6 million. Now, new findings published in JAMA Network Open suggests that teens who use these battery-powered devices are more susceptible to becoming traditional cigarette smokers, Reuters reports.

Researchers used the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, a nationally representative sample of kids between ages 12 and 15 who completed annual questionnaires from 2013 to 2016.

Scientists asked these young folks about vaping and smoking, their socioeconomic backgrounds and attitudes toward smoking. The survey also posed questions designed to determine how inclined participants were to engage in risky behavior and seek out new experiences.)

The questionnaire queried teens who used tobacco products about which 12 products they tried first, including traditional cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, chewing tobacco, snus (a tobacco product placed under the upper lip) and e-cigs.

Researchers focused on 6,123 youths who were tobacco naive during the initial survey and found that 6.1 percent of these participants reported smoking or having tried traditional cigarettes by the third survey.

In addition, those who initially turned to vaping were 4.09 times as likely to try traditional cigarettes or become regular smokers. Users who tried non-cigarette tobacco products first were 3.84 times more likely to use traditional cigarettes.

Interestingly, young folks considered to be at low risk to start smoking and identified as risk-averse who tried e-cigs first showed an 8.57 times heightened risk of eventually smoking. 

As a result, scientists concluded that e-cigs may be a gateway to cigarette smoking.

Click here to learn how using e-cigs can damage your DNA.