DARKE COUNTY — New research is showing that e-cigarettes have not only increased in popularity over the past few years but also are spreading to a younger population.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of high school students who reported ever using an e-cigarette more than doubled in the last year, with 4.7 percent reporting use in 2011 as compared to 10.0 percent in 2012.
In the same time period, high school students using e-cigarettes within the past 30 days rose from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent, as reported by a study from the National Youth Tobacco Survey in September’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Use also doubled among middle school students.
“About 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health in a press release. “We must keep our youth from experimenting or using any tobacco product. These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical.”
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol.
E-cigarettes are currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which business analysts claim have allowed them to grow rapidly. However, this has also gained the ire of the American Lung Association, as representative claim the e-cigarette industry is deliberately marketing to children with “Atomic Fireball” or cotton candy-flavored products.
The American Lung Association also estimates around 250 different e-cigarette brands for sale in the U.S. and state with that many brands, there is likely to be a wide variation in the chemicals that each contain.
“Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a well-known carcinogen) coming from those secondhand emissions,” wrote Ross P. Lanzafame and Harold Wimmer, the national board chair and CEO of the American Lung Association, in an open editorial.
The price is another selling point, as e-cigarette fans often point out that they’re much cheaper than traditional cigarettes.
And the new nicotine delivery agents are already big business.
As earlier reported by Business Insider in August, e-cigarettes are now a $1 billion per year business. And sales in brick and mortar stores were estimated at $700 million annualized while online transactions are expected increase to at least $500 million.
There are roughly 44 million smokers in the U.S., and according to the CDC, about 1 in 5 of them has tried electronic cigarettes.
Although some e-cigarettes have been marketed as smoking cessation aids, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes promote successful long-term quitting, according to the CDC.
The FDA Center for Tobacco Products has announced that it intends to expand its jurisdiction over tobacco products to include e-cigarettes but has not yet issued regulatory rules. It also has refrained from endorsing e-cigarettes as smoking-cessation aides.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that although e-cigarettes appear to have far fewer of the toxins found in smoke compared to traditional cigarettes, the effect of e-cigarettes on long-term health must be studied, specifically pertaining to the amounts and types of components and potentially harmful constituents.
“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 of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in a released statement. “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.”