Cigarette smoking among young people has hit the lowest point ever, but more middle and high school students have found a substitute that carries its own health concerns.
Their product of choice? Electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that deliver doses of nicotine and other additives. Although e-cigarettes are considered less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, health experts are worried that they could lead young people to more damaging forms of smoking.
A survey released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said use of e-cigarettes doubled among young people in just one year, with 10 percent of high schoolers using them in 2012.
CDC director Thomas Frieden noted the addictive nature of nicotine and said he fears young people who start with e-cigarettes will face lifelong struggles. The devices' marketing raises alarms because it is reminiscent of the early days of tobacco advertising, featuring celebrity endorsements, cartoon pitchmen and images of sex and glamour. Plus, they have kid-friendly flavors.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in 2010 that it intends to assume jurisdiction over e-cigarettes, it hasn't done so. With more and more young people experimenting with e-cigarettes each day, the FDA's involvement can't come soon enough.