While teen cigarette use has declined by half since 2000, parents should be aware that three studies released in the fall of 2014 point to a significant rise in e-cigarette use by teenagers.
An e-cigarette is a device that turns nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into an inhalable vapor. Many e-cigarettes are designed to resemble tobacco cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 12% of high school students and 3% of middle school students have tried e-cigarettes at least once, and 4.5% of high school students use them regularly. The 2014 Monitoring the Future survey raises more red flags, finding that 8.7% of eighth grade students had used an e-cigarette in the previous month. The numbers for previous month use by 10th graders was 16.2%, and for 12th graders, it was 17.1%. Finally, a study of 1,900 ninth and tenth grade teens in Hawaii found that 29% of these had used e-cigarettes.
Why it matters:
- Adolescence is a season of experimentation for teenagers. With the rise of popularity in e-cigarette use by teens, it's likely that teens will face increasing temptation to experiment with them. A teen's closest friends are extremely influential during these years of experimentation. Parents should be proactive to know their child's friends, as these provide a window of understanding into your teen's values, behaviors, and temptations.
- Nicotine is an extremely addictive drug, and one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the United States. It activates brain circuitry that regulates feelings of pleasure and provides the body with a "reward" sensation. Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes are nicotine delivery devices.
- Currently e-cigarette manufacturers are unregulated in the U.S., and many e-cigarette products are made outside of the country. Because of the variety of manufacturers and products, it has been very difficult to determine what chemicals other than nicotine are contained in e-cigarette vapor. These chemicals may or may not be harmful to the human body.
- E-cigarette use may or may not be a better alternative than smoking tobacco. Science is clear on the dangers of cigarette smoking to health but has not yet determined the scope of risks found in e-cigarette use. Research has not yet determined whether e-cigarette use is a gateway to smoking tobacco.