According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of teens using e-cigarettes has increased dramatically in the past year, marking a continued rapid rise in use since 2011. Although e-cigarettes may not have the same health consequences as traditional cigarettes, they can still cause health problems, including oral health risks, which are especially damaging to teens.
Increases in E-Cigarette Use
According to the new data, e-cigarette use increased significantly in the last year, continuing an upward trend in the use of vaping devices. This increase in e-cigarette use reversed the trend of overall decline in the use of tobacco products.
The new survey results show that for high school students, e-cigarette use increased from 1.5% in 2011 to 20.8% om 2018. This past year showed a large increase in the use of e-cigarettes, jumping from about 12% in 2017 (a 78% jump!) after several years of decline or slow growth.
Among middle school students, the proportion of e-cigarette users rose from 0.6% in 2011 to 4.9% in 2018. In the last year, this percentage rose from 3.3%, a 48% increase.
Increased Tobacco Use?
The CDC then reports that the increased use of e-cigarettes was the driving force behind the overall increase in the use of tobacco products, which had otherwise been declining since 2011. The current use of any tobacco product among high school students declined from 24.2% in 2011 to 19.6% in 2017, but then increased again to 27.1% in 2018. A similar trend was seen in middle school students, where overall tobacco use declined from 7.5% in 2011 to 5.6% in 2017, then increased to 7.2% in 2018.
How Dangerous Is This for Teens?
The CDC is framing this trend as being decidedly dangerous for teens. However, it’s hard to know exactly how this compares to the health dangers related to tobacco use in previous years.
Based on these figures, e-cigarettes now account for a much higher proportion of tobacco use than in previous years. However, what the CDC doesn’t tell us is how many teens are using both e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, and how many are using e-cigarettes exclusively, rather than using tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
It’s possible that e-cigarette use represents something of a gain for overall oral health. After all, cigarettes are very bad for oral health, leading to tooth loss and having a negative impact on dental implants. And we know that switching from smoking to vaping improves oral health.
However, vaping only represents a gain if people are switching from cigarette use. The new figures indicate that teens are vaping who might otherwise not be using any tobacco product. And that means a potential lifetime of harms, which may include gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer (although we don’t know the overall impact of vaping on oral health, yet). In addition, nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes can lead to addiction and may damage the developing brain.
To try to counteract this trend, the CDC recommends that parents educate themselves about the risks and talk to their children about the dangers of tobacco use.
We Can Help You Take Care of Your Family’s Health
At Harriman Family Dental, we want to make sure your family is healthy. That goes beyond the mouth. We can support family efforts to maintain a healthy diet and avoid risky habits like smoking or vaping.