E-Cigarettes Are More Popular Than Ever Among Teens

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Don't underestimate the popularity of e-cigarettes. If new statistics are any indication, there's no better time to talk to teens about the dangers of these devices. The amount of middle and high-schoolers using e-cigs has tripled between 2013 and 2014, according to the CDC's 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which was released earlier this week. Despite the widespread belief that e-cigs are a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, the word "safe" is up for debate.

The truth is that e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical that comes from the leaves of tobacco plants. In a written statement, CDC Director Tom Frieden warns:

We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age. Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use.

CDC's survey shows that the amount of middle schoolers who used e-cigarettes increased from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014. To put things in perspective, that translates to 450,000 students in 2014. Meanwhile, the percent of high-school e-cig users grew from 4.5 to 13.4 percent, or approximately from 660,000 to 2 million students. Two million! Let those numbers sink in for a minute...

Instead of waiting for the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes (which hopefully happens sooner rather than later), take this opportunity to talk to students now. Chances are they have some misconceptions about how safe these devices really are. Although research is still being done, the dangers of nicotine are well-documented.

If you're not sure where to start, share our "E-Cigarettes: Can They Kill You Too?" story from the February issue of Choices. We investigate e-cigs and the myths surrounding them. Plus, you can supplement the article with these project-based learning ideas from health teacher Amy Lauren Smith, who recently tackled the topic on our blog.

P.S. This CDC survey didn't provide all bad news! The amount of students who smoke traditional cigarettes continues to decline, which is very promising.