“E-cigarette experimentation and recent use doubled among U.S. middle and high school students during 2011–2012, resulting in an estimated 1.78 million students having ever used e-cigarettes as of 2012,” researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration wrote in a report.
“Moreover, in 2012, an estimated 160,000 students who reported ever using e-cigarettes had never used conventional cigarettes. This is a serious concern because the overall impact of e-cigarette use on public health remains uncertain.”
Maggie Fox tells us why parents should be concerned:
While the numbers of kids smoking e-cigarettes aren’t huge yet, the fact that they are doubling so quickly is a bad sign, said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health.
“I think the thing of most concern is the trend,” McAfee told NBC News. “There aren’t many things where we see a doubling in one year. We are not talking about adults here. The absolute numbers in middle school are small but they are doubling. We think it is something we need to get ahead of.”
And, health experts say, tobacco companies are obviously marketing e-cigarettes to young people. “With flavors like bubble gum and cotton candy, e-cigarettes are very clearly being made and marketed in ways that appeal to children,” said Paul Billings of the American Lung Association.
“These data show the urgent need for oversight of these products,” Billings added the FDA doesn’t regulate e-cigarettes but wants to.
When nicotine is delivered to the human body conventionally — by smoking tobacco or chewing a smokeless product — it becomes one of the most dangerous drugs there is. As a stimulant, nicotine is highly addictive. Withdrawal produces a wide variety of very unpleasant and prolonged symptoms. The more than 4,000 other components of tobacco (including the 19 chemicals that make up the “tar” which is known to cause cancer) have even broader, unhealthy — in fact, deadly — effects on the human body. Tobacco, in fact, causes “end-organ” damage to every part of the body.
But when people use tobacco products, they are seeking the drug nicotine and not the cancer and heart disease and strokes (and on and on). This leads to the question: What if nicotine could be delivered without tobacco as the vehicle. People don’t get addicted to the patch, or to nicotine gum. They either wean themselves off nicotine altogether, or they return to smoking or chewing.
There’s something about tobacco as a nicotine-delivery system that makes it so addictive and dangerous. What is still not clear is whether e-cigarettes — nicotine without the tobacco — will be a gateway to conventional cigarettes, or, like the patch and nicotine gum, a gateway away from disease and early death.