WASHINGTON — The government’s annual drug use survey finds that electronic cigarettes have surpassed traditional smoking in popularity among teens.
The National Institutes of Health report says tobacco smoking by teens dropped to new lows. Just 4 percent of eighth-graders said they had smoked a traditional cigarette in the previous month, but nearly 9 percent said they’d used an e-cigarette. And use increased with age. Seventeen percent of high school seniors said they’d used an e-cigarette.
Researchers call the popularity of e-cigarettes surprising. University of Michigan professor Lloyd Johnston leads the annual Monitoring the Future survey. He says he’s worried that the progress made over the last two decades to cut smoking “could be reversed” by the introduction of e-cigarettes.
The battery-powered devices often are described as a less dangerous alternative for regular smokers who can’t or don’t want to quit. They produce vapor infused with potentially addictive nicotine but without the same chemicals and tar of tobacco cigarettes.
The survey didn’t ask about repeat use, or whether teens were just experimenting with something new.