A man exhales electronic cigarette vapor in a park in central Kiev, Ukraine, May 12, 2017. Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

Use of electronic cigarettes as a young adult quadruples your chance of picking up a cigarette within 18 months of your e-cigarette use, a new study has found.

According to a University of Pittsburgh research, “vaping” or using an electronic nicotine delivery system that mimics a conventional cigarette increases your chance of taking up smoking and not decrease it.

The findings demonstrate that e-cigarettes are serving as a gateway to traditional smoking, contrary to their purported value as a smoking cessation tool.

The study published on Dec. 10 in the American Journal of Medicine said this was the first nationally representative survey that monitored youngsters aged between 18 to 30 years — who had never smoked conventional cigarettes — for a year.

The participants were randomly selected based on a survey of U.S. adults, who were asked to answer a questionnaire on their daily tobacco use. The participants did a follow up survey a year later and the results were compared to make conclusions.

"Early evidence on the potential value of e-cigarettes for cessation or reduction of cigarette smoking has been mixed," said lead author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of Pitt's Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, and dean of Pitt's Honors College, in a press release on the University of Pittsburg webiste.

"Our study finds that in nonsmokers, e-cigarettes make people more likely to start smoking. This supports policy and educational interventions designed to decrease the use of e-cigarettes among nonsmokers."

The FDA approved vaping and related devices in 2016, and they are set to become so widely use that they are predicted to outsell traditional cigarettes as early as 2023.

The data was manipulated to suit the population demographic of the United States. For example, only 14.2 percent of those surveyed were Hispanic, so the team over-emphasized their answers so that the weighted sample and final results were 19.7 percent Hispanic.

The final results after the compensations showed that 11.2 percent of participants — none of whom had ever smoked when they completed the initial questionnaire — had started smoking tobacco cigarettes by the end of the year .

Of the participants who said they vaped e-cigarettes in the first questionnaire, 47.7 percent had started smoking cigarettes 18 months later, compared to 11.2 percent of those who did not use e-cigarettes.

Why e-cigarettes increase the risk of a person smoking tobacco cigarettes is unclear. According to the team, several factors are likely at play, including that using e-cigarettes mimics the behavior of smoking traditional cigarettes. The simple action could be addictive and makes it easier to make the transition.

"Young adulthood is an important time when people establish whether they use tobacco or not," said Primack, also a professor of medicine, pediatrics, and clinical and translational science at Pitt's School of Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that clinicians who treat e-cigarette users should counsel them both about their potential for harm and about the high risk of transitioning to tobacco cigarettes among initial nonsmokers," he added.