New research has revealed that e-cigarettes may encourage teenagers to start smoking.
Researchers at the Center for Tobacco Research and Education discovered that over a period of 12 months, the number of teenagers using e-cigarettes more than doubled and those using normal cigarettes increased by almost half (Dutra and Glantz, 2014).
The e-cigarette is designed to give users a nicotine hit without the toxins that are present in tobacco cigarettes.
This has been a way for many smokers to give up as they replicate smoking more effectively than nicotine patches, gum and sprays.
More than a million people in the UK use them and the smoking ban does not apply because e-cigarettes vaporise liquid nicotine and do not create smoke.
Some health professionals still believe they pose a health risk to those who use them due to the various vapours people inhale.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: 'When the foundation questioned more than 2,000 people about safe alternatives to smoking, more than half (57%) thought e-cigarettes fell into this category.
'This research shows they appear to be acting as a gateway for teenagers to take up smoking.
'The results of the study certainly suggest there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to getting young adults to kick the habit.
'E-cigarettes are being marketed as an attractive, appealing alternative, and I urge the Government to intervene and ensure this is stopped immediately.
'Given the substantial investment in anti-smoking campaigns and tools over the last decade, I would have hoped for more people to realise the knock-on affect e-cigarettes could have.'
On average, smokers lose about 16 years of their life.
Mouth cancer, a disease caused predominantly by smoking, is on the rise and more and more young people are developing the disease.
Dr Carter continues: 'The foundation's dental helpline gives patients a way of finding out what damage smoking can do.
'Manned by trained dental nurses and oral health educators, it is open between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday on 0845 063 1188.
'Alternatively the team respond to enquiries from the website.
'Our advice is very simple, if you currently smoke or use e-cigarettes, give them up immediately.
'Encouraging people to quit these habits early could be life-saving.'
No Smoking Day on 12 March and National Smile Month, which takes place from 19 May to 19 June this year, are windows of opportunity for those who need motivation to quit.
The research analysed survey data from 17,353 middle and 22,529 high school students.
In 2011, 3.1% of the teenagers in the study had tried e-cigarettes at least once – 1.7% use with cigarettes, 1.5% only e-cigarettes.
By 2012, 6.5% of teenagers had tried e-cigarettes – 2.6% use with cigarettes.
Dutra, L and Glantz, S (2014) 'Electronic Cigarettes and Conventional Cigarette Use Among US Adolescents: A Cross-sectional Study', JAMA Pediatrics, [Online], Available: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1840772&resultCli... [18 March 2014].