Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

October 10, 2013

BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Teen use of e-cigarettes is a troubling trend

New nicotine delivery system neither hip nor glamorous.

New survey results reveal a new challenge in the on-going battle against teen smoking.

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, the use of e-cigarettes among high school students has doubled, from 5 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012. Usage among middle school students also has doubled, increasing to 2.7 percent from 1.4 percent the previous year.

In addition, the survey revealed that among teenagers who currently use e-cigarettes, 76 percent are smoking regular cigarettes. Federal health officials have noticed.

“We are worried that e-cigarettes will help kids overcome their inhibitions and re-normalize smoking and undermine the progress we have made [in reducing youth smoking],” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Centers for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health. “There is no upside to teens being exposed to e-cigarettes.”

This trend is especially troubling for Indiana, one of the heaviest smoking states in the country. Indiana has the highest rate (14 percent) of older teens and young adults, ages 18-25, who have started smoking in the last year, and the 11th worst rate (7 percent) of adolescents, ages 12-17, who have lit up in the last 12 months.

E-cigarettes use a heating element, powered by a re-chargeable battery, to transform a liquid into a vapor, which then is inhaled. The liquid contains nicotine and often is flavored with fruit, mint or chocolate. E-cigarettes look like a regular cigarette or cigar, although some models are made to look like a pen or even a USB thumb drive to mask their true identity.

A new Indiana law bans the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18. State Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, who authored the bipartisan legislation with two other Republicans and three Democrats, explained, “Given their addictive nature, I believe that e-cigarettes should be subject to the same laws as regular cigarettes when it comes to minors.”

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