E-Smoking Among Teenagers

By Published: September 15, 2013
The New York Times

The case for regulating electronic cigarettes grew even stronger this month when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a notable increase in their use by high school and middle school students. A national survey found that the percentage of high school students who had ever smoked e-cigarettes jumped to 10 percent in 2012 from 4.7 percent in 2011; for middle school students (grades six to eight), the figure rose to 2.7 percent from 1.4 percent.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquid nicotine into a vapor inhaled by the user. They are safer than cigarettes, because they don’t contain all the carcinogens and other toxic substances found in tobacco smoke, and they can often be effective in helping adults cut down on their use of conventional cigarettes. But nicotine — delivered in any manner — can impair adolescent brain development, is extremely addictive and can be dangerous at very high doses to people of all ages.

Quality control problems at some factories make it hard for buyers to know whether they are getting the amount of nicotine they wanted and whether toxic chemicals might be in their e-cigarettes. There are also worries that e-cigarettes will encourage young people to start smoking and then switch to conventional cigarettes.

E-cigarette makers, whose ranks now include some big tobacco companies, are mounting a serious effort to attract young smokers with fruit and candy flavors. They have begun aggressive marketing campaigns that use celebrity endorsements and themes that appeal to young people.

There are no national regulations prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, only age restrictions set by less than half the states. That may change soon. The Food and Drug Administration has expressed “great concern” over the “dramatic rise in usage of e-cigarettes by youth,” and said the new report’s findings reinforce its intention to issue new regulations on tobacco use.

The new rules ought to ban sales or marketing of electronic cigarettes to those under 18 and outlaw flavorings clearly designed to entice children.

Read the article online here.

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