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CDC Concerned About Electronic Cigarettes

Long-term health effects are unknown (Feb. 28)

In 2011, about 21% of adults who smoked traditional cigarettes had used electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes), up from about 10% in 2010, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, about 6% of all adults have tried e-cigarettes, with estimates nearly doubling from 2010.

During 2010–2011, the number of adults who have used e-cigarettes increased among both sexes, non-Hispanic Whites, those aged 45 to 54 years, those living in the South, and current and former smokers, the CDC says. In both 2010 and 2011, e-cigarette use was significantly higher among current smokers compared with both former and never smokers. Awareness of e-cigarettes increased from about 40% of adults in 2010 to 60% of adults in 2011.

“E-cigarette use is growing rapidly,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “There is still a lot we don’t know about these products, including whether they will decrease or increase the use of traditional cigarettes.”

Although e-cigarettes appear to have fewer of the toxins found in smoke compared with traditional cigarettes, the effect of e-cigarettes on long-term health must be studied, the CDC asserts. The agency calls for research to assess how e-cigarette marketing could impact the initiation and use of traditional cigarettes, particularly among young people.

“If large numbers of adult smokers become users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes — rather than using e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes completely — the net public health effect could be quite negative,” said Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the CDC.

Source: CDC; February 28, 2013.

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