WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Non-smoking teens who used e- cigarettes are much more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes compared to those who never used e-cigarettes, according to a study out Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, showed that 43.9 percent of U.S. middle and high school students who had used e-cigarettes said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year, compared with 21.5 percent of those who had never used e-cigarettes.
Overall, over 263,000 U.S. teens who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, up from about 79,000 in 2011, said the CDC study, which was based on the 2011, 2012, and 2013 National Youth Tobacco surveys.
"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e- cigarettes or other tobacco products. Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development," said Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, in a statement.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that look like cigarettes and deliver an aerosol of nicotine and other chemicals. They are promoted as safer alternatives to cigarettes and smoking cessation aids, and also sold in flavors such as chocolate and strawberry that are banned in conventional cigarettes because of their appeal to youth.
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed rules that could eventually ban the sale of e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 18.
"The increasing number of young people who use e-cigarettes should be a concern for parents and the public health community, especially since youth e-cigarette users were nearly twice as likely to have intentions to smoke conventional cigarettes compared with youth who had never tried e-cigarettes," said lead author Rebecca Bunnell, associate director for science in CDC's Office on Smoking.
The CDC study came the same day the American Heart Association (AHA) urged e-cigarettes to the subject to the same laws that apply to tobacco products.
The AHA's first policy statement on e-cigarettes also recommended a federal ban on these products for minors.
"Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation's youth, and could renormalize smoking in our society," Nancy Brown, CEO of the association said in a statement.
"These disturbing developments have helped convince the association that e-cigarettes need to be strongly regulated, thoroughly researched and closely monitored."
According to the CDC, more than 3,200 American youth smoke their first cigarette each day. Unless the smoking rate is rapidly reduced, 5.6 million American children alive today -- about one in every 13 -- will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
Smoking kills nearly half a million Americans every year and more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases, which cost 132 billion U.S. dollars a year in direct health care expenses, the CDC said.