A new study says that e-cigarette use among teens is accelerating at a rapid pace, particularly in Hawaii. Nearly one-third of the high school students that took part in the study said they had tried e-cigarettes.
An e-cigarette is a device that turns nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into an inhalable vapor. Many e-cigarettes are designed to resemble tobacco cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Researchers surveyed more than 1,900 teens in Hawaii. The average age was between 14 and 15 years old. The teens were in ninth and 10th grades, and from both public and private schools, according to the study. The survey assessed e-cigarette and cigarette use, alcohol and marijuana use, and psychosocial risk factors for substance use.
Twelve percent of the students reported using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Seventeen percent had used only e-cigarettes and three percent used cigarettes only.
Study author Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at University of Hawaii Cancer Center, said his team was surprised by the research results in several ways.
"We had thought that persons who used e-cigarettes would look pretty much like smokers on the psychosocial variables we measured, like sensation seeking, impulsivity and peer smoking" he said. "It turned out that the students who only used e-cigarettes had a lower risk profile than smokers and dual users -- persons who use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes."
Electronic cigarettes hit the American market around 2006- 2007, after taking hold in China and Europe. According to the FDA’s website, it does not currently regulate these products, but has proposed extending its authority to cover additional products that meet the definition of a tobacco product under the proposed rule: Tobacco Products Deemed To Be Subject to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (Deeming).
Forty-one states have laws forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and many cities in states that do not forbid the sale, have regulated the sales through ordinances.
E-cigarettes have helped many adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes or cut-down on their use. What is stirring concern over the increase in use among teens is the worry that these products are creating a new generation of teens addicted to nicotine and possible health risks. Nicotine is an extremely difficult drug to quit.
"Kids will try any psychoactive device that seems interesting," said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association. "But the American Lung Association is very concerned about that because we think one of the major deleterious effects of e-cigarettes is hooking a whole generation of kids on this very addictive substance that is nicotine."
He noted that e-cigarettes are only one of many available "nicotine delivery devices," which also include items resembling pens or USB drives that release puffs of nicotine vapor.
Recent studies suggest that the overall use of e-cigarettes by teens in the mainland is lower than the results from the Hawaii study, but adolescent use continues to grow in popularity.
The big question is, what are the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes and other nicotine vapor products? Since there is not any current government oversight on how these products are made, it’s difficult to know what other chemicals are being used in their production.
"Parents have to make it clear to kids that these things are not necessarily safe," Edelman said, "and to live a full and complete life, it would be good if they were drug-free."
Results of the study were published online on Dec. 15 in the journal Pediatrics.
Source: Maureen Salamon, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/growing-use-of-e-cigarettes-among-teenagers-694585.html