“The rise is prompting concerns among health officials that the new devices could be creating as many health problems as they are solving.
“One in 10 high school students said they had tried an e-cigarette last year, according to a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from one in 20 in 2011. About 3 percent said they had used one in the last 30 days. In total, 1.8 million middle and high school students said they had tried e-cigarettes in 2012.
“This is really taking off among kids,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine that is vaporized to form an aerosol mist. Producers promote them as a healthy alternative to smoking, but researchers say their health effects are not yet clear, though most acknowledge that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration does not yet regulate them, though analysts expect that the agency will start soon.
“Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, which represents 28,000 stores, said the study “raises too many unanswered questions,” for the data to be used for policy making. It was unclear, for example, whether students who tried e-cigarettes were using them regularly or only once. He pointed out that selling them to minors is now illegal in many states.
“One of the biggest concerns among health officials is the potential for e-cigarettes to become a path to smoking among young people who otherwise would not have experimented. The survey found that most students who had tried e-cigarettes had also smoked traditional cigarettes.
“But one in five middle school students who said they had tried e-cigarettes reported never having smoked a conventional cigarette, raising fears that e-cigarettes, at least for some, could become a gateway. Among high school students, 7 percent who had tried an e-cigarette said they had never smoked a traditional cigarette.”