Twice as many U.S. middle and high school students used electronic cigarettes, which mimic traditional cigarettes and deliver nicotine as a vapor, in 2012 than a year earlier, and these teens could be on the way to a lifelong addiction, according to a government report released on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 10 percent of high school students surveyed reported using e-cigarettes in 2012, up from 4.7 percent in 2011.
Some 2.7 percent of middle school students surveyed had used e-cigarettes in 2012, up from 1.4 percent in 2011.
Last year, nearly 1.8 million middle and high school students nationwide tried e-cigarettes, the report said.
"The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling," said CDC Director Tom Frieden. "Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes."
E-cigarettes are battery operated, reusable devices, designed to mimic the size and appearance of traditional cigarettes but deliver nicotine in vapor form instead of tobacco or other carcinogens.
Twelve states have laws preventing e-cigarette sales to minors - California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. New York banned e-cigarette smoking within 100 feet of an entrance to a public or private school.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans two years ago to regulate e-cigarettes but has not yet done so.
Lorillard Tobacco Company, which makes e-cigarettes, last year said on its website that it does not market the product specifically for teens. Its nicotine cartridges come in flavors such as cherry crush and vivid vanilla, which is promoted as tasting like ice cream.
A spokesperson for Lorillard did not respond to requests for comment.
The survey also found that 76.3 percent of students who used e-cigarettes in a 30-day period also smoked conventional cigarettes at the same time.
E-cigarettes have been promoted as an aid to stop smoking but both the CDC and FDA warn that there is no conclusive evidence the product aids in quitting smoking.
(Reporting By Lisa Maria Garza; Editing by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)