Teens Prefer E-cigarettes Over Tobacco

More teens for the first time report using e-cigarettes more 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.

“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.

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.

“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.”

The Associated Press reports that some schools have started to categorize e-cigarettes as drug paraphernalia and deal more harshly with students caught with e-cigarettes than those found with regular cigarettes.

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 and unregulated and sometimes in flavors such as bubble gum and milk chocolate ice cream that may be attractive to younger teens.

In the University of Michigan study, 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.

The American Dental Association’s consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, has information about how non-cigarette smoking alternatives affect a person’s oral health. Click “A-Z Topics” from the homepage and then “Smoking, Non-Cigarette Alternatives” under the letter S.

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