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Rising use of e-cigarettes among teens is causing health officials to express concerns that “vaping” the electronic nicotine delivery systems may lead a new generation to start smoking traditional cigarettes in the future.
In recent years, use of traditional tobacco cigarettes has declined steadily in response to substantial efforts by health officials and other experts to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and the risks of premature death from lung cancer and other tobacco-related disease.
In the latest issue of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released on Thursday, the federal health agency indicating that more and more high school kids are vaping e-cigs, suggesting that the trend may be cause for concern.
The CDC used data from the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which surveyed more than 18,000 middle and high school students.
The study found teen use of e-cigarettes has tripled over the last three years, up from 1.5% in 2011, 2.8% in 2012 to 4.5% last year. Comparatively, adult use of e-cigarettes last year was only 2.6%.
Nearly half of all high school students admit having tried some type of tobacco product, including regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes, hookahs and cigars. More than 22% of U.S. high school students reported using any kind of tobacco product in the last 30 days, down from 24% in 2011.
Among white and Hispanic high school students, cigarettes are still the most popular tobacco product.
Thirteen percent of high school students admit to recently smoking a tobacco cigarette. Yet, concerning any type of tobacco product, 31% of students report having ever tried two or more tobacco products, while 13% report regularly using two or more products, like cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
Nearly all tobacco use begins during youth, which may make teens more susceptible to long-term cigarette addiction if they begin using any kind of tobacco product, e-cigarettes included, during high school.
While rates of smoking cigarettes have gone down, e-cigarette use continues to rise steadily, making some health experts fear there may be a reversal of the lowered smoking rates in future years.
Middle school students surveyed also reported tobacco product use. Three percent currently use cigars and three percent of sixth, seventh or eighth grade students reported using cigarettes regularly. Black teens were twice as likely to use cigars than cigarettes.
A study published in August concluded e-cigarette use by teens made them more likely to later smoke traditional cigarettes.
The study found teens who had ever experimented with e-cigarette use were more likely to have tried traditional cigarettes or to be current cigarette smokers. The data was derived from the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Surveys.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S. Many U.S. states have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, however critics warn that is not enough.
The increased use of tobacco use among teens worries many because of the effects nicotine may have on the developing brain.