A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the percentage of high school students who tried an e-cigarette rose from under five percent in 2011 to 10 percent last year. The findings are troubling to public health advocates and may bring manufacturers into conflict with the government over the marketing of products that are typically presented as a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes.
Sales of e-cigarettes, according to a Wall Street Journal report, may top $1 billion this year.
The products have gotten a boost from celebrity endorsements and television commercials that are prohibited for tobacco cigarettes. A USA Today piece suggests that backing from celebrities such as actress and talk show host Jenny McCarthy are making smoking seem cool. Because the products give off water vapor rather than smoke with toxic chemicals, advocates are pushing for e-cigarette use in public spaces now off limits to tobacco.
Increased promotion and word-of-mouth have raised awareness of e-cigarettes among Americans. While only 40 percent were aware of e-cigarettes in 2010, that number jumped to 60 percent by 2011, according to the CDC.
The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tobacco products, is expected to wade into the debate over the marketing of e-cigarettes.
"No one knows what will come out. The FDA has played its cards close to the vest," Nathan Cobb, a Georgetown University pulmonologist, told USA Today. Dr. Cobb sees benefits to e-cigarettes similar to nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.
Are you for or against television commercials for e-cigarettes?