Study: More Teens Using Hookahs, E-Cigarettes

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Study: More Teens Using Hookahs, E-Cigarettes

News Review From Harvard Medical School

November 18, 2013

News Review From Harvard Medical School -- Study: More Teens Using Hookahs, E-Cigarettes

New forms of tobacco, popular with teens, are on the rise in the United States. So says a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hookah use rose from 4.1% to 5.4% from 2011 to 2012. In that same year, electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use increased 1.5% to 2.8%. And those increases were just in high-school-age students. Middle-school students are also smoking e-cigarettes, according to the report. Their use of this product increased from 0.6% to 1.1%. The report was based on data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The CDC published the findings in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Nov. 15. HealthDay News reported on it Nov. 14.

By Claire McCarthy, M.D.
Boston Children's Hospital


What Is the Doctor's Reaction?

Parents, pay attention: More teens are using alternative kinds of tobacco.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that hookah use in youth went up 25 percent just between 2011 and 2012. And the use of e-cigarettes doubled.

In case you don’t know, a hookah is a water pipe. People use it to smoke flavored tobacco, often in groups. An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device. Through it you inhale a vapor that may be flavored and may contain nicotine. Another name for "smoking" an e-cigarette is "vaping."

This increase in use is cause for concern for a couple reasons. First, hookah use involves frequent and deep puffing, and for longer periods of time than you might smoke a cigarette. As a result, exposure to tobacco smoke is actually more than it would be with a cigarette.

And while not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, many of them do. So there are concerns about inhaling the vapor itself (which has not been cleared as safe to do). And there is worry that teens could become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes -- and end up smoking.

The CDC also noted that the use of cigars is up in teens. It speculates that this is because they are often cheaper (taxed less), and because they may be perceived as less dangerous. Among young blacks, use of cigars went from 11.7 percent in 2011 to 16.7 percent in 2012. Among all young males, the rate of cigar smoking (16.7 percent) is similar to the rate of cigarette smoking (16.3 percent).

Every single day, 1,200 Americans die from the consequences of tobacco use. And every single day, more than 2,000 youth and young adults become daily smokers. These products just add to the problem.

What Changes Can I Make Now?

If you are a parent, or someone who works with or spends time with youth or young adults, talk to them about their tobacco use. Talk to them about the risks of lung disease and multiple forms of cancer.

Help kids understand that all forms of tobacco are dangerous, including hookahs and cigars.

Talk to them, too, about e-cigarettes. This can be hard to do because e-cigarettes are often marketed as safe or safer. And they come in flavors like chocolate or bubble gum. Their sales aren't regulated either, so teens can buy them.

Help teens understand that e-cigarette use isn’t necessarily safe at all -- and can lead to other forms of tobacco use.

Ask them if they know anyone who uses these products. That can be a good way to start the conversation. And since having friends who use them can increase their risk to try them and use them, it is good information for you to have.

What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?

Youth are notorious for making impulsive, poor decisions. It’s all part of normal brain development. That’s why it’s our job as adults to educate them and work to keep them safe.

Various states are introducing legislation that would regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to youth. This is a step in the right direction, but we will need more such legislation, and more and better education.

It’s not enough just to talk about smoking anymore. If we really want to keep our kids safe, we need to talk about all forms of tobacco, and all kinds of cigarettes.


Last updated November 18, 2013

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