Twice as many U.S. middle- and high-school teens took up vaping in 2012 than the previous year, indicating that many young people could be getting set up for a lifelong addiction to nicotine, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC reports that 10 percent of the high school students and 2.7 percent of middle school students it surveyed vaped last year, up from 4.7 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, in 2011. The CDC estimated that nearly 1.8 million middle- and high school students vaped for the first time in 2012.
Electronic vaping products were invented as a form of nicotine replacement therapy to help smokers break the habit of smoking real cigarettes, but the new report indicates that increasing numbers of U.S. teens may be vaping for recreational purposes. The devices are battery operated and many are designed to mimic the look and feel of a real cigarette. Instead of tobacco smoke, however, vapes deliver a vapor containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals.
“The increased use of [vaping] by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with [vapes] may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”
The CDC and the FDA have warned no evidence exists that vaping helps people to quit smoking, but the warnings pale in comparison to aggressive marketing campaigns, pitching vaping products in flavors that tantalize minors, such as “cherry crush” and “vivid vanilla.”
Currently, marketing campaigns by vape manufacturers such as Blu, which owns 40 percent of the market, show no signs of slowing down. Ad spending among vape makers grew 72 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to a Citibank marketing report. Two years ago, the FDA considered regulating vaping products like any other tobacco product, but the agency has taken no definitive action.
That may change in October, however, when FDA officials will issue a proposed rule that will allow it to regulate the devices. Some rules the FDA may propose include banning the sale of vaping products to minors, restricting or banning TV, digital, and print advertising, and requiring warning labels on product packaging.
Industry analysts project the sales of vaping products to reach $1.7 billion by the end of 2013.