Teens Switch from Cigarettes to Hookahs

By Shawn Dwyer 11/26/13

Overall tobacco use is down, but teens are increasingly ingesting nicotine through alternative means.

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While tobacco use among middle and high school students has been trending down, teenagers are now getting their nicotine fix through alternative means more than ever before.

According to findings by public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overall tobacco use among teenagers is on the decline. But at the same time, they smoked more tobacco through electronic cigarettes, hookahs, and even candy-flavored cigars in 2012 than in the previous year. The data from the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed a dip of almost one percentage point – from 7.5% to 6.7% of middle schoolers and 24.3% to 23.3% of high school students – in overall tobacco use. However, hookah use rose from 4.1% to 5.4%, while e-cigarettes also gained ground from 1.5% to 2.8%. The CDC attributed the rise to lower prices and wider availability of such products, as well as a growing perception – especially with electronic cigs – that such products are safer to use.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate E-cigarettes and cigars, but plans to expand its authority, a move applauded by Susan Liss, executive director for the National Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "These findings show why it is urgent that the FDA move forward with plans to regulate all tobacco products, including cigars and e-cigarettes."

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.