*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on USA Today.
As e-cigarette use among teens rapidly increases, a national health report suggests adolescents who would not have otherwise used tobacco products are now turning to electronic smoking devices.
The report, released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is based on a study that found overall smoking prevalence among youth in Southern California declined, but the combined e-cigarette or cigarette use was substantially greater than before e-cigarettes became available.
The conclusion raises the question of whether e-cigarettes are merely substituting for cigarettes or being used by teens who wouldn’t otherwise be smoking.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students, with an estimated 2 million users in that age group.
Cigarette smoking declined among American teens in recent years, but the use of other tobacco products — like e-cigarettes and hookahs — increased, the report says.
The potential safety of e-cigarettes, devices that heat a liquid consisting of nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals to create a vapor, is hotly debated. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tar or other chemicals generated by the combustion of tobacco that are responsible for harmful tobacco-related diseases. They are, therefore, seen as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Health care experts worry e-cigarettes could normalize cigarette use and create a new generation of smokers and nicotine addicts that will be likely to transition to more traditional tobacco products.