Electronic cigarettes are gaining favor among U.S. teenagers as new data show a recent doubling in usage.
Last year, 10% of high school students say they tried e-cigarettes, up from 4.7% in 2011, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A doubling also occurred among U.S. middle school students saying they've experimented with e-cigarettes — from 1.4% to 2.7% — and similar spikes in teen usage were found in the 2013 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.
The CDC survey comes as the federal government is expected to announce, as early as October, its plan to regulate these battery-powered devices as tobacco products. E-cigarettes heat a solution containing nicotine, which is derived from tobacco leaves, into a vapor that users inhale. While they don't have the myriad chemicals of regular cigarettes, they still provide a nicotine kick.
The annual survey found that while most teens who say they've used e-cigarettes also report using regular cigarettes, one in five middle school students who've tried the former say they've never tried the latter.
"This indicates that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to nicotine addiction and use of other tobacco products," says Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He blames this upswing on slick new marketing, which enlists celebrities including Jenny McCarthy, Stephen Dorff and Courtney Love for the pitches.