More high schoolers use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes
Editorial submitted by Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara
Data from New York's 2014 youth and adult tobacco surveys shows 10.5 percent of high school students and 12.7 percent of young adults ages 18-24 use electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) - almost double the 6.5 percent rate of e-cigarette use among adults 25 years and older, Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara (TFEN) announced. The data from the state's first report on e-cigarette use also shows more high school students now use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes.
"This new data are alarming because we know that e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems can establish, maintain and strengthen nicotine addition," said Lindsay Amico, TFEN youth engagement coordinator. "At a time when cigarette smoking rates among New York youth, young adults and adults are at all-time lows, we certainly don't want to see an increase in other forms of nicotine use."
E-cigarettes are flooding the market, both in stores and online. The battery-powered devices heat a solution of flavored liquid nicotine and other chemicals to create an emission users inhale.
Of particular concern, more than 50 percent of high school students and young adults who are current smokers are using both cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), defined as dual use. Dual use exposes developing adolescent brains to more nicotine and reinforces addiction. Nicotine use by adolescents has been shown to disrupt developing cognitive abilities, like judgment and reasoning, at key periods during their lifetime.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently does not regulate e-cigarettes or the hundreds of differently flavored nicotine liquids used in them. These products do not burn tobacco, but evidence is accumulating they contain and emit toxins, including cancer-causing formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
"Smoking e-cigarettes is more and more popular with kids at my school," said Grace Bailey, age 17, of Alden, a Reality Check youth advocate. "We don't want to live with tobacco, or any other smoking, in our communities."
Youth are especially vulnerable to experimenting with tobacco, and the majority of adult smokers began smoking when they were teens. Efforts to reduce youth smoking have recently begun to demonstrate positive results. Teen smoking rates have dramatically decreased due to efforts that make it difficult for teens to buy cigarettes.
"This new information about e-cigarette use in New York state should further strengthen our resolve to make our communities tobacco free," said Jenna Brinkworth, TFEN community engagement coordinator. "We deserve to live free of tobacco and nicotine use, and our future generations deserve it."
Every year, approximately 28,000 New Yorkers die prematurely because of cigarette use. Nearly 570,000 New Yorkers have serious diseases directly attributable to smoking, including lung and oral cancers, heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is a major cause of multiple cancers, of heart disease and stroke, and is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This adds up to $10.4 billion in medical costs that are attributed to tobacco and smoking every year in this state.
Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara is funded through the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control and is a part of Tobacco-Free Western New York, managed by Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Learn more about Tobacco-Free Western New York at tobaccofreewny.org
Get information about services available through the New York State Smokers' Quitline at www.nysmokefree.com.