Use of electronic cigarettes may be leveling off some for adults, but not teens.
Before 2007, smokers in the U.S. lit up cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. That changed when electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs, for short) hit the market, providing a smoke-free and possibly healthier alternative for tobacco users. Sales of the battery-powered devices, which deliver nicotine to users through vapor, soared.
The popularity of the devices was likely spiked by studies suggesting e-cigs are possibly healthier than the traditional ways to smoke, and might even help people quit tobacco altogether. The electronic smoking devices also allowed more freedom to satisfy a nicotine habit without smoking up an indoor environment. Widespread advertising campaigns on TV (where ads for traditional tobacco products are banned) likely played a role in boosting e-cigarette popularity, too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But there are signs the enthusiasm for trying e-cigarettes may have waned – but only for currently non-smoking adults.
To find out how many people use e-cigs, CDC and Georgia State University researchers analyzed data compiled between 2010 and 2013 on nearly 15,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18. The results, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, revealed that by 2013, awareness of e-cigs had reached 80 percent and use of the devices had more than doubled. Overall, about 1 in 10, or 20.4 million people, had tried e-cigarettes at least once. In fact, by 2013, more than one-third of current cigarette smokers reported having also used e-cigarettes.
However, the data revealed that less than 2 percent of non-smokers polled had tried the devices in the years surveyed. That’s about the same number reported in earlier years and suggests that the attraction of e-cigs for people who are not smokers has leveled out.
There are also signs that the sale of electronic cigarettes may not be climbing as much as in past years. After five years of zooming sales, electronic smoking devices reached $1.7 billion in revenues by 2013. In spring of 2014, however, e-cig sales fell almost 3 percent. Analysts blame the change on some smokers returning to traditional cigarettes.
Unfortunately, e-cigarettes are growing in popularity with one segment of the population -- teenagers. A recent CDC study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research found that more than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked traditional cigarettes used e-cigs in 2013. That adds up to an increase from about 79,000 in 2011 to more than 263,000 in just 2 years.
Using data from the National Youth Tobacco surveys of middle and high school students, the CDC researchers documented that teens who used e-cigarettes were almost twice as likely to say they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes as those who had never used the electronic variety.
In certain areas of the U.S., kids are turning to e-cigs at an even higher rate than the national average. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, for example, showed that nearly 30 percent of the more than 1,900 teens surveyed in Hawaii had tried e-cigarettes. Researcher Thomas Wills, director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center's Prevention and Control Program, expressed concern that the burgeoning popularity of e-cigs will create a new generation of nicotine addicts.
"You have to think carefully about the risks and benefits of using either tobacco or nicotine, which is known to be an addictive substance. A lot of teens think it is easy to quit smoking but it isn't true. It's hard for anybody to quit,” Wills said.
February 24, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN