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More teens are vaping instead of smoking

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E-cigarettes have overtaken cigarettes in US middle and high schools for the first time, in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call "a very alarming finding." The number of students who had used an e-cigarette within a month of being surveyed tripled in 2014; 2.5 million total were using them. Use of e-cigarettes is more common among high school students, about 13.4 percent of whom had used an e-cigarette within 30 days of taking the survey.

"What we've seen in marketing is Mad Men comes to e-cigarettes."

The results come from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey and are being published today by the CDC. The CDC puts a lot of blame on advertising for the increase in usage, saying that e-cigarette manufacturers are using a mixture of "sex, free samples, [and] flavors" — the same things that were originally found to be problematic with cigarette ads. "What we've seen in marketing is Mad Men comes to e-cigarettes," says Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesperson.

Currently, there's little regulation of e-cigarettes. Though the FDA has indicated interest, it hasn't yet taken real action. Its initial proposals would ban sales to people under 18 and prohibit free samples. It wouldn't, however, address marketing or usage of flavors. Health warnings would also have to be included. The agency is expected to finalize its rules in June.

Vaping among students is "particularly worrisome" since the brain is still developing in adolescents; smoking in that group has been linked to issues with memory and attention. Clearly, the CDC would like to see some more regulation here. Flavoring and advertising are obvious places to start, when considering marketing that appeals to children. After all, that's where cigarette marketing regulations started as well.

Verge Video archive: Hands-on with Vapor Corp's biometric vaporizer (2014)