E-cigarettes are creating nicotine addiction among adolescents, fear health officials at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in California. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that use of e-cigarettes by young non-smokers had tripled from 2011 to 2013, and warned that nicotine can affect brain development in teenagers. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2013 proposed restrictions on the country's $2-billion e-cigarette industry, such as requiring sellers to enforce a minimum age.
E-cigarettes play an important role in helping users quit or reduce smoking. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, "E-cigarettes show tremendous promise as a tool for helping smokers who don't respond to other approaches for quitting smoking. What concerns us is very recent data from the US showing surprising high rates of e-cigarette use by teenagers."
A recent annual survey of more than 40,000 US high school students revealed that in the last month, 8.7 percent of 14-year-olds had used the battery-operated devices that deliver vaporized nicotine into an aerosol inhaled by the user; and this number increased with age- 16.2 percent of 16-year-olds and 17.1 percent of 18-year-olds had done the same. Compton said, "That's a concern because this may be a unique and new pathway to nicotine exposure." The study revealed that only 4 percent of 14-year-olds, seven percent of 16-year-olds and 14 percent of 18-year-olds had smoked real cigarettes in the last month.
Deborah Arnott, head of Britain-based nonprofit Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said, "Nicotine can be harmful to the growing brain, so it's best if young people avoid it. But if they're going to experiment, it's better to use e-cigarettes, as vaping is far less dangerous than smoking and much less addictive. So far in the UK and the US, smoking rates are going down more than e-cigarette use is growing. This would not be the case if vaping really were a gateway into smoking."
Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health at Britain's University of Birmingham, said, "E-cigarettes are much less harmful to the smoker than tobacco. However, if adolescents who have never used tobacco take up e-cigarette use, this is a matter of profound concern as they are deliberately exposing themselves to a highly addictive substance."