WASHINGTON (Sept. 5, 2013) — New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing an uptick in the number of teens who have used electronic cigarettes fails to show which teens are using them or why, key questions to answer in determining whether the trend should be considered alarming, according to R Street Senior Fellow Dr. Joel Nitzkin.

The CDC released the findings of its National Youth Tobacco Survey as part of today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The survey finds that in 2012, 10.0 percent of high school students reported having tried an e-cigarette and 2.8 report having used one within the past 30 days, compared to 4.7 percent and 1.5 percent in 2011.

However, given the findings published earlier this year in separate reports by the U.K.-based Action on Smoking and Health and by U.S. researcher Robert McMillen – the latter published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health – which found virtually no evidence of e-cigarette initiation or use by individuals who were previously non-smokers, it is incumbent on the CDC to determine whether teen smokers are turning to e-cigarettes as a low-risk alternative to cigarettes.

“The premise that e-cigarettes are recruiting non-smoking teens to nicotine use is not supported by these CDC data,” said Dr. Nitzkin, who served from early 2007 through mid-2010 as co-chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians.

He also took issue with the characterization of e-cigarettes by CDC Director Tom Frieden and Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, as “novel tobacco products” whose potential negative effects are not yet understood. He noted there is already a substantial body of research documenting the quality and consistency of e-cigarette products and their efficacy in enabling smokers to cut down or quit cigarette use.

“The fact that e-cigarettes are not yet regulated by FDA reflects issues and problems within FDA, rather than any documented personal or public health issues known to be caused by e-cigarettes,” Dr. Nitzkin said. “Manufacturers, vendors, and users of e-cigarettes would welcome fair and reasonable FDA regulation of e-cigarette manufacture and marketing, so long as the regulation is not done in a way that would summarily force e-cigarettes off the American market.”

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