Marketing for e-cigarette use among teens and middle school students seems to be paying off.
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, says that nearly 2.5 million middle and teen high school students are choosing to “vape.” That number represents a tripling of students using e-cigarettes from 2013 to 2014 according to the report.
E-cigarette popularity among teens has now surpassed all other tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco, the reports notes.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the CDC, calls the increase in teen and middle school student e-cigarette use “deeply alarming.”
"We're seeing a striking increase. It's very concerning," Frieden said during a media briefing. "It more than counterbalances the decrease in cigarette smoking which we've seen over the last few years."
Many proponents of e-cigarettes say they are a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes because they do not include many of the harsh ingredients that have been shown to cause lung cancer such as tar and cigarette paper chemicals.
However, they do include nicotine, which has its own set of side effects.
The brains of pre-teens and teenagers are still in a state of growth and development. Addiction is a primary concern as well as the long-term effects nicotine can have on the developing brain.
According to Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, a monthly online journal with contributions from scientists and physicians, nicotine can have long-reaching side effects:
• Teens do not have the brain development or emotional maturity to realize that their nicotine use impacts their health or to acknowledge the effects of nicotine dependence, and often overestimate their ability to quit whenever they choose.
• Because teenagers' brains are still developing, their brains are particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine, which can in turn impair them for life. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex area of the brain is affected. Teen's developing brains are particularly sensitive and experience more of a rush from nicotine than older adults and become dependent upon it more quickly.
• With long-term use, nicotine can damage the areas of memory, cognition, and emotions that can last indefinitely through their adult lives.
This means that teens who are regular users of nicotine are at higher risk for cognitive reasoning impairment, attention deficits, and developing mental disorders such as depression, phobias, addictions, and antisocial personality.
The new CDC survey, shows e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students.
Among middle school students, e-cigarette use more than tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014, an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students.
Hookahs also have grown in popularity, the CDC found. Hookah smoking roughly doubled for teens, rising from about 890,000 middle and high school students in 2013 to nearly 1.6 million in 2014.
Health experts agree that more research is needed to look into the long-term effects of the chemicals used to create the vapor in e-cigarettes.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is considering regulating e-cigarettes as they do traditional tobacco products.
It may or may not be a coincidence that both marketing for e-cigarettes and teen use of e-cigarettes has tripled. Companies can advertise e-cigarettes on TV, even though commercials for cigarettes were banned in 1971.
According to a study published last November in the journal Pediatrics, E-cigarette commercials increased 256 percent between 2011 and 2013, and more than three-fourths of teens' exposure to e-cigarette ads happened on cable channels. AMC aired the most, followed by Country Music Television and Comedy Central.
These ads are not designed to encourage teens to stop smoking, but instead to start vaping.
Should e-cigarettes regulation comes under the control of the FDA, advertising on TV most likely will stop. But by then it may be too little, too late.
Sources: Dennis Thompson, http://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/tobacco-and-kids-health-news-662/e-cigarette-use-triples-among-u-s-teens-in-1-year-698513.html
Kirsten Schuder, http://addiction.lovetoknow.com/smoking/effects-e-cigarettes-teenagers
Julia Glum, http://www.ibtimes.com/teens-smoking-e-cigarettes-marketing-may-be-blame-increase-number-vaping-high-school-1724105