Teen smoking drops, but e-cig use concerns experts

- Cigarette smoking among teenagers dropped to an all-time low in Florida, but the rates of tobacco-free product usage remained much higher, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Use of traditional tobacco products fell to 4.2 percent among Florida high school students, which is below the national average of more than 7 percent.

While the use of electronic cigarettes among teens in the Sunshine State has increased dramatically in recent years, the rate experienced a slight dip to about 16 percent.

Chloe Hale, with the Florida Department of Health, said vaping isn't as safe as people believe and e-cigarettes can be addictive.

“They do promote dual use. Basically, if someone starts using e-cigarette products, they are more likely to also continue or start using conventional cigarettes as well," Hale said. “People usually don’t cut down on their amount of cigarettes. They are just adding on the e-cigarette. It causes a stronger nicotine addiction, especially among youth.”

Other experts aren't sure the 16-percent figure factors in all the teenagers who use Juuls, which are a new and increasingly-popular tobacco-free device.

Juuls are the size of a USB drive and contain small cartridges that pack the nicotine punch of an entire pack of cigarettes.

"I definitely can say that it's sweeping campuses all over the country. You definitely see a rise in it because it's obviously a clear alternative to cigarettes," said Joe Cacciato, a University of Tampa student.

Like many people, Cacciato was a cigarette-smoker and turned to an alternative product -- in his case, Juuls -- to help him quit.

"Kids just want to catch that buzz without the unhealthy side effects of cigarettes," he said. "That just gives you a little head rush for about 15 to 20 minutes until you crave it again."

Hale says nine out of every 10 smokers take up the habit prior to turning 18, making it even more important to focus on getting younger kids to stop vaping. On average, it takes eight to 10 attempts to finally stop smoking.

According to Juul's website, the company's mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to cigarettes. Juul users, by law, are supposed to be at least 21 years old and the company says it condemns the use by minors.

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