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Use of e-cigarettes among Florida youth has tripled in past four years, exceeding traditional cigarette use

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Use of e-cigarettes among Florida youth has tripled in the past four years, exceeding traditional cigarette use, according to a new study by RTI International.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, found that experimentation and past 30-day e-cigarette use among Florida youth exceeded traditional cigarette use in 2014. The study showed that e-cigarette use in Florida was 10.8 percent among high school students and 4 percent among middle school students, compared to 8.7 percent of high school students and 2.9 percent of middle school students for traditional cigarettes.

In 2014, almost one-third of high school students and 42 percent of middle school students who experimented with e-cigarettes had never tried traditional cigarettes.

The researchers examined a cross-sectional, representative state sample from 2011 to 2014 identifying recent youth trends on the frequency of e-cigarette and traditional cigarette use in Florida.

"While it's great news that traditional cigarette use continues to decline in Florida, the 2014 prevalence rates for current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students are unprecedented," said Jennifer Duke, Ph.D., senior public health analyst at RTI and the study's lead. "Given the concern that significant rates of youth e-cig use may have a negative effect on public health, this study underscores the need for rapid regulatory action to prevent advertising, marketing, sales and use among U.S. youth."

The study found that an estimated 105,900 Florida youth in grades 6 through 12 used one or more e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. More males than females reported e-cigarette use, while fewer black, non-Hispanic students reported use compared with white, non-Hispanic and Hispanic students.

Previous research by RTI found that e-cigarette companies that advertise to a broad TV audience that includes 24 million youth. The study showed that e-cigarette ads appeared on programs like The Bachelor, Big Brother and Survivor that were among the 100 highest-rated youth programs.

E-cigarettes that are not marketed for therapeutic purposes are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Another RTI study found that particles found in e-cigarette vapors might cause or worsen acute respiratory diseases, including asthma and bronchitis, among youth. Up to 40 percent of particles emitted by an e-cigarette can deposit in the deepest area of a teen's lungs, according to research.

Additionally, RTI research found e-cigarette vapors contain toxins exposed through secondhand smoke.