Youth vaping and smoking and parental vaping: a panel survey

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

July 28, 2020



Concerns remain about potential negative impacts of e-cigarettes including possibilities that: youth e-cigarette use (vaping) increases risk of youth smoking; and vaping by parents may have impacts on their children’s vaping and smoking behaviour.

With panel data from 3291 youth aged 10–15 years from the 7th wave of the UK Understanding Society Survey (2015–2017), we estimated effects of youth vaping on youth smoking (ever, current and past year initiation), and of parental vaping on youth smoking and vaping, and examined whether the latter differed by parental smoking status. Propensity weighting was used to adjust for measured confounders and estimate average effects of vaping for all youth, and among youth who vaped. E-values were calculated to assess the strength of unmeasured confounding influences needed to negate our estimates.

Associations between youth vaping and youth smoking were attenuated considerably by adjustment for measured confounders. Estimated average effects of youth vaping on youth smoking were stronger for all youth (e.g. OR for smoking initiation: 32.5; 95% CI: 9.8–107.1) than among youth who vaped (OR: 4.4; 0.6–30.9). Relatively strong unmeasured confounding would be needed to explain these effects. Associations between parental vaping and youth vaping were explained by measured confounders. Estimates indicated effects of parental vaping on youth smoking, especially for youth with ex-smoking parents (e.g. OR for smoking initiation: 11.3; 2.7–46.4) rather than youth with currently smoking parents (OR: 1.0; 0.2–6.4), but these could be explained by relatively weak unmeasured confounding.

While measured confounding accounted for much of the associations between youth vaping and youth smoking, indicating support for underlying propensities, our estimates suggested residual effects that could only be explained away by considerable unmeasured confounding or by smoking leading to vaping. Estimated effects of youth vaping on youth smoking were stronger among the general youth population than among the small group of youth who actually vaped. Associations of parental vaping with youth smoking and vaping were either explained by measured confounding or could be relatively easily explained by unmeasured confounding.

Published in

BMC Public Health


Volume: 20:1111






Open Access

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