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E-cig use on rise in students, CDC says

Use of electronic cigarettes by high school students tripled in two years, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 4.5 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes regularly in 2013, according to a report released Thursday. Nearly 12 percent of high school kids and 3 percent of middle schoolers had tried them at least once.

Cigarette use among teens has been cut in half since 2000, falling from 28 percent of high school students in 2000 to 12.7 percent of high schoolers in 2013, said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

But kids are experimenting with a variety of tobacco products beyond cigarettes — from cigars to hookahs, chewing tobacco and pipes. Nearly 23 percent of high school students use some sort of tobacco product, according to the CDC. For example, nearly 12 percent of high school students smoke cigars, up slightly from 2011.

Because cigars are unregulated, they are often taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes. They’re also sold individually and with fruit flavors, making them more attractive to kids, especially ones without much pocket change, according to the CDC.

Scientists don’t yet know the full health effects of e-cigarettes, but the Surgeon General has said the nicotine they deliver is addictive and can harm adolescent brain development.

The rising numbers of kids who use e-cigarettes and other alternative tobacco products is worrisome, Hamm said. E-cigs are often sold in kiosks at places frequented by teens, such as shopping malls.

Public health researchers such as Stanton Glantz of the University of California-San Francisco worry that e-cigarettes could serve as a gateway drug, making young people addicted to nicotine, which could lead them to smoke cigarettes.

Nine out of 10 smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18, according to the CDC.

“We must do more to prevent our youth from using tobacco products, or we will see millions of them suffer and die prematurely as adults,” said Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed regulating e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, but it has not yet issued a final rule. The proposed rule would ban sale of e-cigarettes to people younger than 18. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes would have to register any new products with the FDA.

The FDA regulates only cigarettes now.


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