Sep 6, 2013 12:28 AM by NBC News
The electronic cigarette industry is booming.
This year alone, it's expected to rake in an estimated $1.7 billion.
A new study finds some of the biggest e-smokers are teenagers.
To find evidence of their growing popularity, a new study suggests you needn't look further than your local high school.
E-cigarettes come in flavors like bubble gum and cookies and cream which may tantalize the taste buds of a younger generation.
Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has evidence kids and teens are increasingly using them.
"What we've seen is rapid increase in e-cigarette use in both middle schoolers and high schoolers. In fact, it doubled in just a year," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning minors can legally buy electronic cigarettes in more than half of all states.
The devices use water vapor instead of tobacco smoke to deliver a hit of nicotine.
That, experts say, makes them highly addictive.
"Kids' brains are highly susceptible to nicotine. They're easily addicted and that addiction can be lifelong," said Frieden.
The suggestion is that nicotine addiction could be a gateway to using tobacco.
The study found about 10% of high school students have experimented with e-cigarettes and three-quarters also smoke regular cigarettes.
The parent company of Blu e-cigarettes, Lorillard, released a statement saying, "We agree the rise in youth usage pointed out by the CDC is unacceptable. And that is why we look forward to a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes that restrict youth access while at the same time doesn't stifle what may be the most significant harm reduction opportunity that has ever been made available to smokers."
Some former tobacco smokers insist what they call "vaping" helped them quit smoking.
Scientific studies exploring e-cigarettes' effectiveness as quit aids are ongoing.
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