E-cigarette retailers are popping up in cities across Iowa, though state law forbids their sale to anyone under 18.
Tobacco researcher Michael Fiore says the report from the Centers for Disease Control confirms long-held suspicions.
Fiore says, “One of the biggest concerns about e-cigarettes is that they will serve as a gateway drug to lifelong nicotine dependence and all of the harms we know result from cigarette smoking.”
The population tracked by the CDC study included kids in grades six through 12, years when they’re considered particularly vulnerable.
“We know that the adolescent brain is very sensitive to nicotine,” Fiore says. “Use of e-cigarettes, with its exposure to nicotine, puts these adolescents at risk of lifelong nicotine addiction.”
The CDC study found more than 263,000 young people who had never smoked used an electronic cigarette last year, three times the number from 2011. About three out of four teen smokers become adult smokers, according to the report.
Fiore says the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes among young people is worrisome.
He says, “We are at risk of having a generation of young people who are exposed to e-cigarettes, begin using them and both have changes in their brain related to this nicotine exposure but also tend to go on to use combustible cigarettes.”
The overall smoking rate in Iowa is 19.6%, just slightly below the national average of 19.7%.