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Health & Parenting

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More U.S. Teens Try E-Cigarettes, Hookahs: Report

Cigarette smoking hasn't declined among young people, researchers find

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The rapidly growing use of electronic cigarettes, hookahs and other smoking alternatives by middle school and high school students concerns U.S. health officials.

While use of these devices nearly doubled in some cases between 2011 and 2012, no corresponding decline has been seen in cigarette smoking, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

"We have seen, between 2011 and 2012, a big increase in the percentage of middle- and high-school students who are using non-conventional tobacco products, particularly electronic cigarettes and hookahs," said Brian King, a senior scientific adviser in CDC's office on smoking and health.

These products are marketed in innovative ways on TV and through social media, he said. "So, it's not surprising that we are seeing this increase among youth," he added.

E-cigarettes and hookah tobacco come in flavors, which appeals to kids. And since hookahs are often used in groups, they also provide a social experience, which may be adding to their popularity, King said.

Teens may also believe that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco, said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. However, nicotine is addictive and can hamper the developing brains of teens.

"This paper shows that the return of nicotine advertising to TV and radio, combined with an aggressive social media presence and use of flavors is promoting rapid uptake of electronic cigarettes by youth," said Glantz.

The report, based on data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey, was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

King said efforts are needed to curb use of these tobacco products and prevent other teens from ever trying them. "We know that 90 percent of smokers start in their teens, so if we can stop them from using tobacco at this point, we could potentially prevent another generation from being addicted to tobacco," King noted.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 1,200 people every day.

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