E-Cigarettes Surpass Tobacco Cigarettes Among Teens
In 2014, more teens use e-cigarettes than traditional, tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product—the first time a U.S. national study shows that teen use of e-cigarettes surpasses use of tobacco cigarettes.
The survey asked students whether they had used an e-cigarette or a tobacco cigarette in the past 30 days. More than twice as many 8th- and 10th-graders reported using e-cigarettes as reported using tobacco cigarettes.
Specifically, 9% of 8th-graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, while only 4% reported using a tobacco cigarette. In 10th grade, 16% reported using an e-cigarette and 7% reported using a tobacco cigarette. Among 12th-graders, 17% reported e-cigarette use and 14% reported use of a tobacco cigarette.
"This could be a result of e-cigarettes being relatively new," said Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator of the project. "So today's 12th-graders may not have had the opportunity to begin using them when they were younger. Future surveys should be able to tell us if that is the case."
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices with a heating element. They produce an aerosol, or vapor, that users inhale. Typically, this vapor contains nicotine, although the specific contents of the vapor are proprietary and are not regulated. The liquid that is vaporized in e-cigarettes comes in hundreds of flavors. Some of these flavors, such as bubble gum and milk chocolate cream, are likely attractive to younger teens.
For these youth, e-cigarettes are a primary source of nicotine and not a supplement to tobacco cigarette use. Whether youth who use e-cigarettes exclusively later go on to become tobacco cigarette smokers is yet to be determined by this study, and is of substantial concern to the public health community.
One important cause of the decline in smoking is that many fewer young people today have ever started to smoke tobacco cigarettes. In 2014, only 23% of students had ever tried tobacco cigarettes, as compared to 56% in 1998. Of particular concern is the possibility that e-cigarettes may lead to tobacco cigarette smoking, and reverse this hard-won, long-term decline.
Only 15% of 8th-graders think there is a great risk of people harming themselves with regular use of e-cigarettes. This compares to 62% of 8th-graders who think there is a great risk of people harming themselves by smoking one or more packs of tobacco cigarettes a day. Because e-cigarettes are relatively new, a comprehensive assessment of their health impact—especially their long-term consequences—has yet to be developed.
— Source: University of Michigan