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Survey finds teens prefer e-cigarettes over tobacco

March 09, 2015

By Craig Palmer

More teens now use e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product, according to the University of Michigan’s 2014 Monitoring the Future study, which annually tracks substance use trends among 8th, 10th and 12th grade students.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices with a heating element, producing an aerosol or vapor that users inhale. Typically, the vapor contains nicotine although specific contents are proprietary, unregulated and variously flavored as bubble gum, milk chocolate ice cream or other flavors that may be attractive to younger teens.

“There is no such thing as a healthy tobacco product,” the Association says at MouthHealthy.org. “Many non-cigarette alternatives are often marketed as healthier alternatives to smoking, but tobacco is harmful to your oral health and overall health. Quitting is the only way to decrease your risk of tobacco-related health problems.”

“Part of the reason for the popularity of e-cigarettes is the perception among teens that they do not harm health,” said Richard Miech, a senior investigator of the study.

Researchers and regulators want answers to that question.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, one of the National Institutes of Health, proposes to fill the research gap to better inform regulators, health care professionals and teenage and adult consumers of the increasingly popular battery-powered devices about the effects of e-cigarette aerosol mixtures on the mouth, gums and oral tissue.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposed rule to regulate the devices as tobacco products.

The study said that 9 percent of 8th graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days while only 4 percent reported using a tobacco cigarette. In 10th grade, 16 percent reported using an e-cigarette and 7 percent reported using a tobacco cigarette. Among 12th graders, 17 percent reported e-cigarette use and 14 percent reported use of a tobacco cigarette.

Older teens report less difference in use of e-cigarettes versus tobacco cigarettes.

“In the absence of federal regulation, youth e-cigarette use has increased and e-cigarette sellers online operate in a regulatory vacuum, using few, if any, efforts to prevent sales to minors,” the JAMA Pediatrics journal said in a study published online March 2. “Even in the face of state laws like North Carolina’s requiring age verification, most vendors continue to fail to even attempt to verify age in accordance with the law, underscoring the need for careful enforcement.”