Use of E-Cigarettes Rises Sharply Among Teenagers, Report Says

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from The New York Times,

E-cigarettes have arrived in the life of the American teenager.

Use of the devices among middle- and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to federal data released on Thursday, bringing the share of high school students who use them to 13 percent — more than smoke traditional cigarettes. The sharp rise, together with a substantial increase in the use of hookah pipes, led to 400,000 additional young people using a tobacco product in 2014, the first increase in years, though researchers pointed out it fell within the margin of error. About a quarter of all high school students and 8 percent of middle school students — 4.6 million young people altogether — used tobacco in some form last year.

The numbers came as a surprise and seemed to pitch policy makers into uncharted territory. The Food and Drug Administration took its first tentative step toward regulating e-cigarettes last year, but the process is slow and many experts worry that habits are forming far faster than rules are being written. Because e-cigarettes are so new, little is known about their long-term health effects, leaving regulators scrambling to gather data.

But the data also told another story. From 2011 to 2014, the share of high school students who smoked traditional cigarettes declined substantially, to 9 percent from 16 percent, and use of cigars and pipes ebbed too. The shift suggested that some teenage smokers may be using e-cigarettes to quit. Smoking is still the single biggest cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans a year, and most scientists agree that e-cigarettes, which deliver the nicotine but not the dangerous tar and other chemicals, are likely to be far less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

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