E-cigarette Use Doubles Among Teens
September 6, 2013

E-Cigarette Usage Doubles Among US Teens

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among middle and high school students.

In just one year, the number of teens who say they smoke these battery-powered devices has doubled. Today’s report could have a lasting effect on the future of the devices, as the FDA investigates how much, if any, regulatory oversight will be placed on these products.

E-cigarettes have become a popular fashion accessory for the young set and have even become a popular choice for those who have decided to kick the habit. Yet for their increasing popularity, the long-lasting health effects of the nicotine-infused vapor which is pulled from these sticks has not yet been fully examined.

“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, told the Washington Post. "Nicotine is  a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes."

When asked, 2.7 percent of all middle schoolers surveyed by the CDC research team said they smoked an electronic cigarette in 2012. This number is nearly double the 1.45 percent who said they tried an e-cigarette in 2011. High school students were more likely to try the battery-powered smoke-free devices; 10 percent of the high schoolers interviewed said they had had a puff on one in the last year. In 2011, the number of high schoolers who had tried an e-cigarette was only 4.7 percent. All told, some 1.8 million middle and high school students tried an e-cigarette last year.

What’s more, these students aren’t using these new devices as a replacement for cigarettes. The allure of the real thing is still quite strong, according to the CDC report. More than three-quarters of all middle and high schoolers surveyed said they had also smoked a traditional cigarette in the previous year. Only one in five middle school students who said they smoked an e-cigarette said they had never had a traditional cigarette.

Electronic cigarettes deliver a hit of nicotine using vaporized water. The basic e-cigarette contains a battery, a sensor, an atomizer or vaporizer and a reservoir for the nicotine-infused liquid. When a smoker takes a pull from the cigarette, the sensor recognizes a drop in pressure and triggers the vaporizer. This turns a tiny quantity of the liquid into vapor which can then be inhaled like regular smoke.

Water vapor is then exhaled at the end of the process which, unlike second-hand smoke from cigarettes, is harmless to bystanders. Smokers can choose from flavored liquids like cherry, strawberry or even root beer.

Though electronic cigarettes do not release tar and carbon monoxide like regular cigarettes, the FDA believes they may release other carcinogens and toxic chemicals. What exactly those toxins are has not yet been made clear.

"We don't yet understand the long-term effects of these novel tobacco products," explained Mitch Zeller, the FDA director of the Center for Tobacco Products division.

The debate over the potential benefits of smoking e-cigarettes is ongoing. One recent Italian study, for instance, found that those who smoked e-cigarettes were more likely to give up smoking traditional cigarettes.