The number of teenagers smoking electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and hookahs are up across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a new report.
The report cited data showing e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, a fact that troubles researchers who worry that e-cigarettes could lead to nicotine addiction or be a gateway to tobacco products; about 90 percent of all smokers pick up the habit as teenagers.
For the new report, researchers combed data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey, a nationally-representative poll of about 25,000 students in grades six through 12 on their tobacco use habits and attitudes towards smoking.
Hookah use was also looked at in the new report. The CDC finding smoking rates increased from 4.1 percent of high school students in 2011 to 5.4 percent by 2012. "Since 1964, smoking rates have dropped by more than half as a result of successful education, legislative and smoking cessation efforts. Still, lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer and the leading preventable cause of death in the United States," Dr. Lewis Foxhall, vice president for health policy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a center news release.
Overall, nearly 44 million or about one in five Americans still smoke, the report noted.
"The current percentage of smokers is 19 percent. That's significantly lower than the 42 percent in 1965. However, the actual number of people smoking today is close to the same," Foxhall said.
The report also noted that social smoking, or occasional smoking can be just as harmful for a persons health.
"Science has not identified a safe level of smoking, and even a few cigarettes here and there can maintain addiction," David Wetter, chair of health disparities research at MD Anderson, said in the news release. "If you are a former smoker, data suggests that having just a single puff can send you back to smoking."