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Researchers found that about 20 percent of Canadian teens have tried e-cigarettes, the same rate as those who experiment with tobacco cigarettes.
"E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among Canadians," study author David Hammond, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said in a university news release. "Now one in five youth will try vaping before graduating high school."
More than 2.5 million Canadians have tried e-cigarettes, with smokers and young people accounting for the largest number of ongoing users.
A similar trend is unfolding in the United States. A study by federal health officials that was published in April found e-cigarette use booming among U.S. teens. Nearly 2.5 million middle and high school students now choose to vape rather than smoke traditional cigarettes or indulge in other forms of tobacco.
E-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, making the nicotine-delivery devices the most popular tobacco product now used by American teens, according to the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Canadian study was published May 4 in the journal Tobacco Use in Canada: Patterns and Trends.
"There is no question that e-cigarettes are a harmful consumer product because of all of the chemicals users inhale," Hammond said.
"At the moment, we have an uncontrolled experiment with e-cigarettes: Millions of Canadians are trying products with unknown safety standards for a wide variety of reasons. There is an urgent need for even more evidence to guide policy in this fast-moving area," he said.
Several Canadian provinces are developing policies around the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed new regulations for the sale and use of e-cigarettes.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Waterloo, news release, May 4, 2015