The share of U.S. students in middle school and high school who used electronic cigarettes last year doubled, according to a survey that may affect how much oversight regulators place on the nicotine products.
The percentage of high school students who reported ever using an e-cigarette rose to 10 percent in 2012 from 4.7 percent a year earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey released today. Last year, 1.8 million middle and high school students had tried the cigarettes.
“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”
E-cigarettes are electronic tubes that simulate the effect of smoking by producing nicotine vapor. The Food and Drug Administration is considering regulating e-cigarettes and may make any potential restrictions on the products known as early as October. Lorillard Inc., based in Greensboro, North Carolina, acquired Blu Ecigs for $135 million last year.
Given the survey results, the length of time the FDA has taken to expand its tobacco oversight to e-cigarettes “is deeply disturbing,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement. The FDA gained authority over tobacco products through a law passed in 2009.
The study also found that about three-quarters of the students who used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days also smoked conventional ones in the same period. The percentage of high school students who used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days rose to 2.8 percent in 2012 from 1.5 percent in 2011.
“These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical,” Tim McAfee, director of the Atlanta-based CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in the statement.