First-time youth tobacco users are turning to e-cigarettes, a survey showed.

Researchers examining the results of the survey of 2,084 11th- and 12th-grade participants in the Southern California Children’s Health Study during the spring of 2014 found that e-cigarettes were enjoying a “favorable social environment” among this group.

“This finding is a cause for concern because e-cigarettes were the dominant tobacco product used, and a substantial portion of e-cigarette users had no history of tobacco use,” Jessica L. Barrington-Trimis, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Southern California’s department of preventive medicine, and her colleagues said in the August issue of Pediatrics (doi:10.1542/peds.2015-0639).

Twenty-four percent of teens reported any lifetime e-cigarette use; 10% were current users (past 30 days) and 14% were past users. “Notably, a lower proportion of adolescents (n = 390, 18.7%) had ever smoked a cigarette; 5.7% (n = 119) were current cigarette users and 10.0% (n = 271) were past cigarette smokers,” Dr. Barrington-Trimis and her associates reported.

The investigators suggested that because of a more favorable perception of e-cigarettes (for example, 43% of the adolescents predicted that their friends would react positively to their own e-cigarette use), they “could contribute to the ‘renormalization’ of tobacco products generally,” and called for more research in this area.

Research was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products. The authors reported no relevant financial conflicts of interest.