According to a government report teen smoking has decreased ever since electronic cigarettes and water pipes have become more popular. Compared to 2013 the number of teens who use electronic cigarettes has tripled in 2014.
The findings of the annual survey on youth tobacco use show that in middle schools the number of students who vaped has raised from 1.1% to 3.9%, whereas in the case of high school students the percent of those who use e-cigarettes has increased from 4.3% to 13.4%. The survey was conducted by CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in collaboration with FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).
The participants in the survey were 22,000 students from both private and public middle schools and high schools. The participants in the study were asked whether they had smoked tobacco in the previous 30 days. Those who answered positive were considered current smokers. The decline was not reported only in the case of cigarettes, but also in other tobacco-containing products such as chewing tobacco, snuff and cigars.
Consequently the use of standard cigarettes has declined from 13% to 9.2%. The president of the anti-smoking organization Legacy, Robin Koval, believes that the drop in tobacco use may be dramatic but it is at the same time encouraging.
The director of CDC, Tom Frieden, considers the results to be shocking. He considers this a bad thing and believes that any type of nicotine exposure is harmful for the brain. He fears that yet another generation is subjected to an addictive substance. He also added that although they may use e-cigarettes some teenagers are very likely to return to smoking traditional cigarettes in the future.
However, not everyone finds the results alarming. Pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Harold J. Farber of the Children’s Hospital claims that e-cigarettes are something new, popular and cool. They come with various flavors which makes them very attractive to teens. In addition, they are discrete. He believed that manufacturers do a great job by selling e-cigarettes.
CDC is believed to take a hard stand against e-cigarettes especially when they are considered to be less dangerous than traditional cigarettes. Tobacco-control specialist, Professor Michael Siegel of Boston University’s School of Public Health believes that the CDC should consider the fact that smoking rates are declining a reason of joy and not perceive e-cigarettes as a bad thing.
Siegel agreed that teens should not have access at all to tobacco products. However he pointed out that the survey suggests that e-cigarettes can distract teens from smoking traditional cigarettes which are the cause of almost half a million of the tobacco-related deaths in the US. Frieden on the other hand disagrees with the idea that it is better for kids to use e-cigarettes.
However there are almost no regulations which can stop teenagers from using e-cigarettes. Although most states ban e-cigarettes sales to underage people, this does not stop teens from acquiring them. Regulations were proposed by FDA last year and the final rule is expected around June.
E-cigarettes do not help quit smoking
On top of these contradictory opinions a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health discovered that e-cigarettes may in fact make it harder for smokers to quit.
The study analyzed the smoking behavior of 1.000 people in California. The findings showed that smokers who used e-cigarettes were 50% more likely to continue smoking in comparison with smokers who had never tried e-cigarettes. The research suggested that the use of this device also has an impact on the smoker’s long-term changes of giving up tobacco.
The purpose of e-cigarettes was precisely to make it easier for smokers to quit this habit. The lead author of the study, Dr. Wael Al-Delaimy from the Global Public Health Department of the Diego School of Medicine (University of California) said that if that is the case people should be successful in quitting smoking. However their research proved the contrary.
One of the reasons why e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit is the fact that when using the device people tend to smoke an increased dose of nicotine. According to Dr. Wael Al-Delaimy FDA will be informed about the results of the study and urged to introduce guidelines regarding e-cigarettes. This is a matter of utter importance since e-cigarettes have become so popular among teenagers.
Mitch Zeller, the director of the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA, explained that nicotine has very harmful effects on the brain development in teenagers. According to him parents should not be relieved because their children use e-cigarettes instead of traditional ones. He also added:
“The striking increase in middle school and high school use of e-cigarettes and hookah is really a public health emergency. A tripling of e-cigarette use in one year is just an astounding finding.”
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