E-cigarette use outpacing cigarette use among teens

Governor Jay Inslee gives sobering statistics for Washington youth

Snohomish County Health District 


SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. At a press conference Thursday morning, Governor Jay Inslee released preliminary data from the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey in which 23 percent of Washington’s high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes. Furthermore, high school sophomores were vaping at twice the rate of regular cigarettes. This represents a significant increase in e-cigarette use since the 2012 survey.

“What we’re seeing is alarming,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director at the Snohomish Health District. “The companies marketing these products are zeroing in on youth with ads featuring celebrities and other social media campaigns telling them that vaping is cool and safe. These are dangerous messages to send to our kids.”

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vaping devices, represent a market that has grown exponentially since they were first introduced in mid-2000s. They are typically equipped with a battery, an atomizer, and a cartridge for liquid nicotine. There are more than 400 different brands of e-cigarettes and the liquid nicotine comes in more than 7,000 flavors, all of which can be purchased online. The devices can also be used with marijuana, heroin, and other drugs.

The devices are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, so manufacturers are not required to disclose product ingredients. In addition to the nicotine, vaping may expose users and by-standers to harmful toxins like lead and formaldehyde. It will take decades to fully understand long-term effects of e-cigarettes and exposure to vaporized nicotine and other drugs. 

“Nicotine is nicotine, regardless if smoked or vaped.  We can’t afford to let years go by before acting to protect teens from a lifetime of health problems,” said Goldbaum. “This is a drug that the U.S. Surgeon General has noted is just as addictive as cocaine and heroin. We need to do more to protect our children–it’s critical that our legislators do what is in their power to keep these harmful devices off limits to Washington’s youth.”

A bill is currently under consideration during this legislative session. If approved, it would require retailers obtain licensing for the sale of vaping devices, prohibit internet sales, ensure child-safe packaging, and restrict marketing and sales activities targeted at youth. It would also impose a tax on vaping products that would be on par with other addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco. Taxing tobacco products has proven to be one of the most effective strategies to reduce the use of harmful and addicting substances, particularly among youth.

The final 2014 Healthy Youth Survey data and reports will be released by the Washington State Department of Health next month.

Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. To read more about the District and for important health information, visit 

Cotton Candy and Atomic Fireball flavored electronic cigarettes are forging a new pathway to addiction, death and disease

By:  Ross P. Lanzafame, American Lung Association National Board Chair
Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO

E-cigarette use among middle school children has doubled in just one year.  Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that e-cigarette use also doubled among high school students in one year, and that 1 in 10 high school students have used an e-cigarette.  Altogether, 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide use e-cigarettes.  Yet, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still is not regulating e-cigarettes.  The absence of regulatory oversight means the tobacco industry is free to promote Atomic Fireball or cotton candy-flavored e-cigarettes to our children.  Clearly, the aggressive marketing and promotion of e-cigarettes is reaching our children with alarming success.

It is well known that nicotine is a highly addictive substance, whether delivered in a conventional cigarette or an e-cigarette.  The use of sweet flavors is an old tobacco industry trick to entice and addict young children to tobacco products, and the entrance of the nation’s largest tobacco companies into this market clearly is having an impact.   Why does Big Tobacco care about e-cigarettes?  Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people each year and thousands more successfully quit.  To maintain its consumer ranks and enormous profits, the tobacco industry needs to attract and addict thousands of children each day, as well as keep adults dependent.   Big Tobacco is happy to hook children with a gummy bear-flavored e-cigarette, a grape flavored cigar or a Marlboro, so long as they become addicted.  We share the CDC’s concern that children who begin by using e-cigarettes may be condemned to a lifelong addiction to nicotine and cigarettes.

In addition, the American Lung Association is very concerned about the potential safety and health consequences of electronic cigarettes, as well as claims that they can be used to help smokers quit.  With no government oversight of these products, there is no way for the public health and medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in an e-cigarette or what the short and long term health implications might be.   That’s why the American Lung Association is calling on the FDA to propose meaningful regulation of these products to protect to the public health.

The FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a safe or effective method to help smokers quit. When smokers are ready to quit, they should call 1-800-QUIT NOW or talk with their doctors about using one of the seven FDA-approved medications proven to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.

According to recent estimates, there are 250 different e-cigarette brands for sale in the U.S. today. With that many brands, there is likely to be wide variation in the chemicals that each contain.  In initial lab tests conducted by the FDA in 2009, detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals were found — including an ingredient used in anti-freeze — in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various e-cigarette cartridges. That is why it is so urgent for FDA to begin its regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes, which must include ingredient disclosure by e-cigarette manufacturers to the FDA.

Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a well-known carcinogen) coming from those secondhand emissions. While there is a great deal more to learn about these products, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about, especially in the absence of FDA oversight.