- The number of middle and high school students reportedly using e-cigarettes tripled between 2013 and 2014, according to a new national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Public health advocates worry that e-cigarettes, which heat up liquid nicotine that's inhaled in vapor form, could pose unknown health risks to users, since so little remains known about their long-term health effects.
- CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement that the increase in e-cigarette consumption should concern parents: "We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette, or cigar. Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use."
- The good news: the number of middle and high school students smoking conventional cigarettes continued its long-term decline, with 9.2 percent of students reporting conventional cigarette use in the past 30 days in 2014, compared with 12.7 percent in 2013.
E-cigarettes may be safer than cigarettes — but they're not harmless
Do e-cigarettes reduce the number of smokers, or do they attract new customers?
Even if e-cigarettes are somewhat harmful, they could improve public health if they replace conventional cigarette use. The idea is that cigarettes are so unhealthy — they kill more than 480,000 people a year in the US — that e-cigarettes, even if they're a bit unhealthy, would be a better alternative.
The concern is that e-cigarettes might not be substituting existing tobacco products, but are instead attracting a whole new set of customers, including teens, that would have never used cigarettes in the first place. What's worse, researchers at the University of California in San Francisco explained, using e-cigarettes can get people addicted to nicotine — and that nicotine addiction could eventually lead to conventional smoking.
As Vox's Julia Belluz previously explained, the research on e-cigarettes and their effects is still too early to know whether they will be a public health win. That uncertainty has driven some public health advocates to call on the Food and Drug Administration to take stronger steps to prohibit e-cigarette marketing and sales to teens and children, especially until the science is clearer.
- A vaping advocate makes the case for e-cigarettes
- How Big Vaping is misinforming the public about e-cigarettes
- How e-cigarette companies are quietly winning the war on regulation