In the face of rising e-cigarette use among both teens and adults, health experts are marshaling resources needed to fight what they say is a growing marketing campaign to hook Americans on nicotine products. The alarm stems from a new study that shows a dramatic increase in e-cigarettes among middle and high school students.
The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that while use of cigarettes fell among teens between 2013 and 2014, e-cigarette use grew so quickly that it is now the most popular type of nicotine product used by teens. In 2014, among all high school students, e-cigarettes were used by 13.4 percent, hookahs by 9.4 percent, and cigarettes by 9.2 percent. Among high school students, current e-cigarette use tripled between 2013 and 2014. A 2013 report showed more than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes that year. Meanwhile, another study showed that use of e-cigarettes among adults has doubled. (E-cigarettes have been touted as aids that could help people quit smoking, but they may not help you quit.)
Health officials say the public’s embrace of e-cigarettes is worrisome because the full range of health risks from vaping is unknown.
“Claims that these products are not marketed to the young are not supported by the evidence,” Dr. Tom Ferkol, president of the American Thoracic Society, said in a press release. Statistics tend to support this viewpoint. The Food and Drug Administration reported that 81 percent of teenagers using electronic cigarettes said the reason they use them is the variety of flavor options. One study found that the first tobacco product the majority of underage smokers ever used was flavored.
Ferkol continued, “Until we understand the actual risks of these products, their promotion and manufacturing processes should be controlled, especially in light of their steadily increasing use by children and adolescents, in whom they can serve as a gateway to use of other dangerous tobacco products.”