A recent survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that teen cigarette use is on the decline. That's great news. But, the numbers also show that teens are using e-cigarettes more than ever before, a concerning trend since we don't know much about the long-term effects of the new electronic cigarettes.
More teens are now using e-cigarettes than are smoking conventional cigarettes, with 17 percent of high school seniors reporting that they’d vaped in the last 30 days, compared with 13 percent who reported smoking.
Overall, the survey is encouraging because it shows that just 6.7% of teens now smoke cigarettes on a daily basis. Teens are also abusing pills and alcohol less these days. As a mother, I find those numbers very uplifting. Still, the e-cigarette trend worries me.
Since they hit the market a few years ago, e-cigarette popularity has taken off. "Vaping" is the term used to describe using an e-cigarette, and the Oxford English Dictionary even named "vape" its word of the year. More people have turned to vaping because it doesn't produce yucky smoke and many believe it's a healthy alternative to cigarettes. But, is that truth?
The reality is we just don't know. There simply isn't enough data out there to determine the long-term health effects of smoking e-cigarettes.
E-cigarette use has about doubled every year since 2011, according to Richard Miech of the University of Michigan, and the products are too new for experts to fully grasp the consequences. “The best we can do is follow people who have used e-cigarettes and see what happens to them as they age,” Miech says.
Until researchers have more data to study, we won't know the possible downsides and health effects of vaping. Is it actually healthier than smoking normal cigarettes, or is that just wishful thinking?