Emerging tobacco products like e-cigarettes and hookahs are rapidly growing in popularity among middle and high school students, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows current e-cigarette use rose from 0.6 percent in 2011 to 1.1 percent in 2012 among middle-school students, and from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent among high school students. Hookah use rose from 4.1 percent to 5.4 percent among high school students.
Meanwhile, there was no significant decline in cigarette smoking or overall tobacco use among students.
A common criticism of e-cigarettes is that they are used in tandem with, or as a gateway to, other products, such as standard tobacco cigarettes, which are generally considered more harmful. The fact that e-cigarette and hookah use are on the rise without a decline in tobacco cigarette usage would indicate that many are dual users.
"A large portion of kids who use tobacco are smoking products other than cigarettes, including cigars and hookahs, which are similarly dangerous," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.
The report states that the increased usage could be a result of increased marketing and availability of the products, and the perception they may be less harmful alternatives.
Lawmakers expressed concern recently that e-cigarette companies are marketing directly to youths, through glitzy, sexed-up advertising and flavors like cookies-and-cream.
E-cigarettes and hookah are not currently regulated like standard tobacco products, so marketing is not limited. The Food and Drug Administration has said it intends to issue a rule that extends the "tobacco products" umbrella to these categories as well, but such a regulation has not yet been issued.