The number of students in grades 6 through 12 who had smoked electronic cigarettes more than doubled during 2011-12, according to a report by the CDC.
Based on data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, the number of students who ever had used e-cigarettes increased from 3.3% to 6.8%. When examining current e-cigarette use, the number increased from 1.1% to 2.1%. Among current e-cigarette users, 76.3% reported current conventional cigarette smoking.
In raw numbers, an estimated 1.78 million students had used e-cigarettes as of 2012. Moreover, in 2012, an estimated 160,000 students who reported ever using e-cigarettes never had used conventional cigarettes.
That last statistic is a serious concern because the overall impact of e-cigarette use on public health remains uncertain, the authors wrote in the Sept. 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In youths, concerns include the potential negative impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development, as well as the risk for nicotine addiction and initiation of the use of conventional cigarettes or other tobacco products.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol, the authors wrote. Depending on the brand, e-cigarette cartridges typically contain nicotine, a component to produce the aerosol (e.g., propylene glycol or glycerol) and flavorings (e.g., fruit, mint, or chocolate). Potentially harmful constituents also have been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins and animal carcinogens.
E-cigarettes that are not marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and in most states there are no restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey is a school-based, pencil-and-paper questionnaire given to U.S. middle school and high school students, and consists of a cross-sectional, nationally representative sample of students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Given the rapid increase in use and youths susceptibility to social and environmental influences to use tobacco, developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales and use of e-cigarettes among youths is critical, the authors wrote.