Americans' love of e-cigarettes continues to grow, especially among teenagers who haven't even taken their SATs. No longer favored exclusively by Playboy playmates and Stephen Dorff, the vapor-spewing alternative to conventional cigarette smoking is catching on with America's youths, according to the federal government. In a report published earlier today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse [PDF], more high school teenagers admitted to smoking an e-cigarette in the last month than lighting up a traditional cigarettes during the same period.
The NIDA's report surveyed over 41,000 students from 377 high schools, and while its findings confirmed a positive health trend—that fewer and fewer teenagers are taking up smoking—it does point to a surge in teenage e-cigarette use. 17 percent of 12th graders told the NIDA they were smoking e-cigarettes, while only 13.6 percent claimed they used traditional cigarettes. 16 percent of high school sophomores said they smoked e-cigs, compared to only 7.2 percent that claimed to smoke the old fashioned way.
Perhaps most startling are the 8.7 percent of 8th graders that profess to be using e-cigarettes.
“It would be a tragedy if this product undid some of the great progress made to date in reducing cigarette smoking by teens," wrote Lloyd D. Johnston, of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, in the report.
But the Times reports that e-cigarettes are only getting more popular with teens. Citing a 2013 CDC survey, the paper notes that use of the vaporous devices grew by two percent from 2012 to 2013.
90 percent of the world's e-cigarettes are manufactured in China, and this weekend the Times reported that regulation of e-cigarettes there is still so nascent it's practically non-existent. Enormous and riddled with counterfeit operations, the industry is on track to ship over 300 million e-cigarettes to the U.S. and Europe, and many of tiny vapor machines could be dangerous in ways that old-fashioned cigarettes aren't.
Experts tell the Times that "flawed or sloppy manufacturing could account for some of the heavy metals, carcinogens and other dangerous compounds, such as lead, tin and zinc, that have been detected in some e-cigarettes," and that tiny silicon fibers have been found in e-cigarette vapors. Other studies have shown that some e-cig vapors contain formaldehyde.