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Young Non-Smokers Who Tried E-Cigs: Number Tripled

CDC report also finds that teens who used the devices were more likely to say they would try smoking
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- More than a quarter-million middle and high school students who were non-smokers say they used an electronic cigarette last year -- a threefold increase from 2011, a new U.S. study says.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those numbers jumped from 79,000 in 2011 to 263,000 in 2013.

The CDC report also found that non-smoking children who used e-cigarettes were nearly twice as likely to say they plan to start smoking tobacco cigarettes compared to those who never used e-cigarettes -- about 44 percent versus 21.5 percent, respectively.

"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products. Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release.

One other anti-smoking advocate agreed.

"This study highlights the need for the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to develop strong regulations regarding electronic cigarettes," said Patricia Folan, a nurse and director of the Center for Tobacco Control at North Shore-LIJ in Great Neck, N.Y.

"Without these FDA regulations, the number of teenagers using cigarettes and electronic devices may increase, resulting in a reversal of the many successes that have been made in tobacco control over the past several years, especially among adolescents," Folan said.

The new study findings come from an analysis of data from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 National Youth Tobacco surveys of middle and high school students in the United States.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine but lack many of the carcinogens found in traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, the CDC says there is research suggesting that nicotine's harmful effects on teen brain development could cause lasting problems in thinking and memory.

Nicotine is highly addictive, and about three-quarters of teen smokers become adult smokers, the CDC said.

For that reason, "the increasing number of young people who use e-cigarettes should be a concern for parents and the public health community, especially since youth e-cigarette users were nearly twice as likely to have intentions to smoke conventional cigarettes compared with youth who had never tried e-cigarettes," study lead author Rebecca Bunnell, associate director for science in CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in the news release.

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