American middle and high school students seem increasingly taken with electronic cigarettes – and that alarms health officials who worry the devices will turn teenagers to regular cigarettes, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
The battery-powered electronic devices are marketed as safer and more socially acceptable than regular cigarettes and come with “flavor cartridges” – cherry, chocolate and lime and coconut, to name a few – that could appeal to youngsters.
Teenagers use of the electronic devices – sometimes call e-cigs – last year was about double what they reported in 2011. About 10 percent of high school students reported they’d used the e-cigarettes in 2012 along with 3 percent of middle-schoolers.
The devices do not contain tobacco, so they are not regulated like traditional cigarettes and can be purchased by minors. But health officials said they still deliver nicotine and other chemicals and can serve as the proverbial gateway to regular cigarettes and all their known health hazards. They also say the devices have not been well studied, so there may be other health risks that are yet unknown.
“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, in a statement. “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.”