CDC: E-cigarettes are gateway for teens to smoking

Thursday, January 1, 2015
Nebraska Radio Network

While it’s a popular New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, a federal study finds teenagers who use e-cigarettes are twice as likely to say they intend to smoke traditional cigarettes within the next year.

E-cigarette retailers are popping up in cities across Nebraska, though a state law passed by the Unicameral last year forbids their sale to anyone under 18.

Tobacco researcher Dr. Michael Fiore says the report from the Centers for Disease Control confirms long-held suspicions.

Dr. 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 Nebraska is 18.9%, just slightly below the national average of 19.7%. In Nebraska, the Smoke-Free Air Law doesn’t prohibit e-cigarettes since they are not “lit.” As a result, they can be used indoors.

The Nebraska Tobacco Quitline is available 24/7 at 800-QUIT-NOW or online at

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