Health Officials Alarmed By Electronic Cigarette Use Trend
TALLAHASSEE, FL. – The number of middle school and high school students in the United States who used electronic cigarettes doubled in 2012 compared to just a year earlier, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 1.8 million middle school and high school students nationwide had tried e-cigarettes last year, the report said.
The Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida is alarmed by the mounting body of evidence that shows that youth are, indeed, using e-cigarettes. In Florida, 4.3 percent of middle school students and 12.1 percent of high school students had ever tried e-cigarettes in 2013, according to new data released by the health department last week. The number of Florida high school students who had tried e-cigarettes doubled – from 6 percent in 2011 to 12.1 percent in 2013.
Aside from their potentially harmful health effects, e-cigarettes are becoming a tool used to get youth and young adults hooked on nicotine, which is a highly addictive, dangerous chemical. To add to this concern, these unregulated products are available in fruit and candy flavors, which are especially enticing to young people because they mask the harsh flavor of traditional tobacco. The increased marketing of these products is also worrisome.
“E-cigarettes have brought Big Tobacco back into families’ living rooms,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. “Tobacco products like cigarettes and dip have been banned from advertising on TV for decades, and for good reason. Yet, new in-your-face e-cigarette ads have recently infiltrated our airwaves with commercials that seem to have taken a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook for targeting young people.”
Florida has made notable progress in decreasing the number of smokers and increasing the number of smoke-free policies, which protect residents from secondhand smoke and de-normalize tobacco use. In fact, the CDC’s e-cigarette report comes on the heels of new Florida data that shows that teen cigarette smoking reached a record low in the state. The new data from the state health department indicates that there are tens of thousands of fewer teens smoking cigarettes today than before the Tobacco Free Florida program launched in 2007.
“We have seen notable progress in Florida, yet the alarming increase in e-cigarette use and in their availability has the potential to normalize smoking again, after decades of hard work in the state and across the country to reverse that norm,” said Hughes. “A state where seeing someone smoke is the exception not the norm is a state where more smokers are encouraged to quit and fewer youth ever start – a healthier Florida for all.”
Update: After posting this story, we immediately began receiving numerous "comments" posted that were thinly disguised advertisements for the electronic cigarette industry. We remove comments that contain advertisements or with links to commercial companies.