A new research study by the University of Southern California has found that teens who try electronic cigarettes may be more than twice as likely to move on to smoking regular cigarettes as those who have never tried the devices.

Reuters reports that the findings, published this week in the medical journal JAMA, offers some of the best evidence available to date establishing a link between e-cigarettes and smoking.

Researchers at USC surveyed about 2,500 Los Angeles high school students about tobacco sue three times over the course of a school year. The study began in the fall of ninth grade with students who did not smoke cigarettes.

At the start of the study, 220 students said they had tried e-cigarettes. Those students were more than twice as likely to report smoking cigarettes during the course of the study. The likelihood more than tripled for smoking hookah and more than quadrupled for cigars.

Although the findings are not definitive, experts say they offer the first evidence in a long-term study study to show that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to eventually try conventional cigarettes than those who do not use the devices.

In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 2 million middle- and high-school students tried e-cigarettes in 2014, triple the number of teen users in 2013.

Last year, a story by BHB youth reporter Brizette Castellanos found that e-cigarettes and other electronic smoking devices were becoming increasingly popular with teens and young adults in Boyle Heights.

Castellanos reported that battery-powered cigarettes and so-called vapes with and without nicotine were changing the way nicotine is consumed and how the public views the act of smoking.

The story found that while supporters claimed the new devices were safer than cigarettes and could be used to help quit smoking, opponents were concerned that they were attracting new young users. It also found that research on potential long-term effects, as well as federal regulations, lagged behind the devices’ popularity.

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