Cigarette smoking among young people has hit the lowest point ever. But more middle and high school students have found a substitute that carries its own health concerns.
Their product of choice? Electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that deliver doses of nicotine and other additives. Although e-cigarettes are considered less harmful than traditional ones, health experts are worried that they could lead young people to more-damaging forms of smoking.
A new survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says use of e-cigarettes doubled among young people in just one year, with 10 percent of high school students using them in 2012. CDC Director Thomas Frieden noted the addictive nature of nicotine, and said he fears young people who start with e-cigarettes will face lifelong struggles.
The devices’ marketing raises alarms because it is reminiscent of the early days of tobacco advertising, featuring celebrity endorsements, cartoon pitchmen, and images of sex and glamor. Plus, they have kid-friendly flavors.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in 2010 that it would assume jurisdiction over e-cigarettes, but hasn’t done so. With more young people experimenting with e-cigarettes each day, FDA involvement can’t come soon enough.