WASHINGTON - Teen smoking was a problem on its way out, but startling new numbers are emerging, and doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are worried that e-cigarettes may be reintroducing a smoking culture to the young.
"What's concerning, from a public health standpoint, is that also could mean that they're using e-cigs as a potential gateway," says Dr. Brian King, senior adviser in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.
A recent national survey shows 20 percent of middle-school students who have used e-cigarettes have never used traditional tobacco cigarettes, which the doctors say could indicate a higher risk the kids will be introduced to smoking tobacco.
"We've seen a doubling in use by youth in recent years, and it's about 2 million middle and high school students who have used the products," King says.
Celebrity marketing of the unregulated products doesn't help, he says.
"It's no surprise we're seeing marked increases in use among youth because they're definitely being heavily marketed through various media, most notably through television."
And while they're better than smoking cigarettes, the health ramifications of e-cigs aren't precisely known.
"We do know the products don't just contain flavorings and water vapor.It includes a lot of different components, most notably nicotine," King says.
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