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Study Identifies Key Risk Factors for Adolescent E-Cigarette Use

Machine Learning Analysis Reveals Important Influences on Adolescent ENDS Use

The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), commonly known as e-cigarettes, among adolescents has been on the rise, presenting a significant public health concern. A recent study conducted between December 2017 and November 2019 has identified several key risk factors associated with ENDS use among adolescents who had never used tobacco at baseline. The research, utilizing machine learning techniques, aimed to provide insights into the factors contributing to the growth of ENDS use among youths.

Key Findings: The study analyzed data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, involving 7,943 adolescents who had never used tobacco at the beginning of the research. Among the notable findings were:

  1. Peer Influence: Adolescents who had best friends using ENDS were more likely to start using them themselves. Specifically, the likelihood of using ENDS increased if offered by a best friend.
  2. Family Influence: Living with a person who uses tobacco also played a significant role in adolescents’ ENDS use.
  3. Curiosity: Adolescents expressing curiosity about ENDS use were more susceptible to using them in the near future.
  4. Future Intentions: Those who expressed an intention to use ENDS in the future were more likely to initiate usage.
  5. Economic Factors: Adolescents with higher average weekly earnings were more at risk of current ENDS use.
  6. Safety Perception: Adolescents who perceived tobacco products as safe were more likely to use ENDS.
  7. Education Level: The grade level of adolescents also impacted ENDS use, with higher-grade levels showing a slightly higher risk.

Discussion: The study findings highlight the strong influence of peers and family on adolescents’ ENDS use, emphasizing the pivotal role of social circles and family in shaping youth behaviors. Moreover, economic factors and adolescents’ intentions and curiosity regarding ENDS are key contributors to usage. The study further indicates that understanding these risk factors can help design more effective tobacco control and prevention strategies.

Implications: As the prevalence of ENDS use among adolescents continues to rise, these findings are crucial for public health authorities and policymakers. To combat the tobacco epidemic and protect youth from harmful substances, family and school environments should play a central role in educating and guiding adolescents regarding tobacco-related matters. Additionally, monitoring adolescents’ spending habits and activities, especially among those with higher earnings, can help prevent undesirable behaviors.

This study serves as a valuable tool to better understand and address the factors driving ENDS use among adolescents, ultimately contributing to more effective prevention and intervention efforts.

Source: JAMA Network Open Journal