Monday, December 22, 2014

E-cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students

The most recent annual survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that the use of regular cigarettes by middle and high school students continues to trend downward. However, for the first time the NIDA survey includes questions about the use of e-cigarettes, and the results are startling. Already, the use of e-cigarettes among middle- and high-schoolers exceeds the use of regular cigarettes. Among eighth-graders, 8.7% have used e-cigarettes but only have used regular cigarettes. And by the 12th grade, 17% have used e-cigarettes and 13.7% have used regular cigarettes.

This is the first time the annual NIDA survey has included questions about e-cigarettes, so there's no way to determine how quickly e-cigarette use is rising among young people. Within the next year or so (once we have more data) the trend will become clearer.

Health officials and e-cigarette manufacturers couldn't be farther apart on their goals for e-cigarettes. Health officials would like to see e-cigarettes used only as a useful tool to help current smokers quit smoking. Their chief concern is that e-cigarettes may encourage a whole new generation of young people to smoke who might otherwise never have smoked. E-cigarette manufacturers, on other hand, stand to reap huge profits from the much larger youth market. My guess is that the e-cigarette manufacturers are secretly pleased by the latest statistics, though I don't expect them to say so.

Although e-cigarettes are considered to be relatively safe, they do contain nicotine, an addictive drug. It will be interesting to see how (or if) the federal government or the states choose to regulate e-cigarette use in the future.

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