As the e-cigarette industry begins to mature from an unregulated, entrepreneurial enterprise to big business, governments around the world are now beginning to pay attention. The U.K. just this summer announced that the devices will soon be regulated as a medicine alongside products such as nicotine gum and nicotine patches. Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing that e-cigarette use among teens more than doubled last year.
The CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that the percentage of high school students who have ever used an e-cigarette rose to 10% in 2012, up from just 4.7% in 2011. Though the percentage is much lower, e-cigarette use also rose among middle school students. The CDC is concerned that young people who begin using e-cigarettes could become addicted to nicotine, which could lead them to using tobacco products such as cigarettes.
Over 76% of high schoolers who admit using e-cigarettes within the past month say they have also used tobacco cigarettes during that time. Also, 80% of middle schoolers who have tried e-cigarettes also admit to having tried tobacco cigarettes.
"The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. "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."
E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, turning it into a water vapor for inhalation. The idea is that such devices can deliver the nicotine smokers crave without the use of tobacco. Though e-cigarette users have claimed many positive effects from switching to the e-cigarettes from real cigarettes, little research has been done on the long-term effects of the new devices. Many of the nicotine solutions sold online include a wide variety of flavors, and the e-cigarette industry as a whole is largely unregulated around the world.
“These data show a dramatic rise in usage of e-cigarettes by youth, and this is cause for great concern as we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of these novel tobacco products,” said Mitch Zeller, director the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “These findings reinforce why the FDA intends to expand its authority over all tobacco products and establish a comprehensive and appropriate regulatory framework to reduce disease and death from tobacco use.”
(Image courtesy Michael Dorausch via Wikimedia Commons)