E-Cigarettes More Popular among Teens Than Traditional Cigarettes, CDC Reports

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, April 17, 2015 | Go to article overview

E-Cigarettes More Popular among Teens Than Traditional Cigarettes, CDC Reports


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


Electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students, according to a study published today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That finding is due to both the increasing popularity of e- cigarettes and the decreasing popularity of traditional cigarettes.

Between 2013 and 2014, e-cigarette use among young people tripled, rising from 1.1 percent to 3.9 percent among middle school students and from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high school students.

During that same period, traditional cigarette use remained about the same among middle school students, but fell from 12.7 percent to 9.2 percent among high school students -- the largest yearly decline in more than a decade, according to the CDC.

In addition, hookah use almost doubled between 2013 and 2014, rising from 5.2 percent to 9.4 percent among high school students and from 1.1 percent to 2.5 percent among middle school students.

CDC officials now estimate that 4.6 million middle and high school students are current tobacco users. Of those, 2.4 million use e-cigarettes and 1.6 million use hookahs.

Overall, the use of tobacco products among young people has shown no decline since 2011, according to the CDC data.

"We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it's an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a released statement. "Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use."

A debate over safety

The FDA is considering regulating e-cigarettes, including their sales to minors. The agency is expected to make a final decision about that regulation later this year.

Health experts have been debating whether e-cigarettes -- which deliver nicotine through a vaporized liquid rather than smoke -- are a safer alternative than traditional cigarettes for people who are already habitual smokers and whether the devices can play a role in helping people eventually give up their nicotine addiction. E- cigarettes are so new that little research has been conducted on them.

A study published Wednesday in the British journal Tobacco Control reports, however, that the chemicals used to add flavors to some e-cigarettes are associated with serious respiratory problems.

"Regulations are needed," write the authors of that study. "These should include compulsory ingredient listing, limiting the levels of certain flavourings, and limiting total permissible levels of flavourings, particularly as there is some concern that flavoured products might make e-cigarettes more attractive to young people. …

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