American Teens Are Ditching Cigarettes For ‘Modern’ Tobacco Alternatives

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Despite a small decline in the number of American youth smoking cigarettes, an increasing number of middle and high-school students are turning to tobacco alternatives such as hookahs, electronic cigarettes, and cigar products like flavored “little cigars,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Youth smoking rates declined about one percent in 2012 compared to the previous year — but middle school and high school students self-reported using e-cigarettes at almost double the rate that they did in 2011. The percentage of high school students admitting they smoke hookah also climbed by over 31 percent.

So-called “little cigars” that come in a variety of flavors are also getting increasingly popular among young Americans. An earlier CDC study found that over a third of all students who admit to smoking say they use flavored little cigars and cigarettes.

The newest report finds that certain demographics, such as black and male high school students, have been using such alternatives at almost double the rate that they did in 2009. Now, nearly one in five African-American students and one in five male high school students uses little cigars.

Flavored cigarettes were outlawed by a 2009 anti-smoking law. But the flavored little cigar products, which are only marginally different from regular cigarettes, still exist thanks to regulatory loopholes in the law. The FDA intends to propose regulations for “tobacco products” including e-cigs, hookah, and little cigars soon.

“This report raises a red flag about newer tobacco products,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a press release. “Cigars and hookah tobacco are smoked tobacco – addictive and deadly. We need effective action to protect our kids from addiction to nicotine.”