Enthusiasts say e-cigarettes are saving smokers from regular cigarettes, but they're also dragging teens into the habit.
For many, electronic cigarettes have been heralded by fans as quit-smoking devices, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the popular tobacco product could actually be tempting more youths into smoking. They say when they've tried smoking e-cigs, teens are more likely to switch to traditional cigarettes.
The CDC's study, based on nationally representative youth surveys, found that a quarter-million teens who never smoked before tried an e-cigarette in 2013, which was three times the amount in 2011. Those who have tried cigarettes were also twice as likely to say they would try smoking a conventional cigarette than a person who didn't try electronic smokes.
Health experts are concerned that the fast-growing $2 billion e-cigarette industry could undermine years of successful anti-smoking work in the U.S. Only 15.7% of U.S. teens reported smoking in 2013, a record low.
Anti-smoking forces aren't taking the e-cig invasion lying down. Back in April, the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 18, but did not propose any restrictions on flavors, online sales, and advertising—the elements most likely to attract children. Attorneys general from 29 states urged the FDA to strengthen these rules earlier this months.
"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development."