The Tribune

Smoking among teenagers has continued inching down, according to the report released last week by the National Institutes of Health. The rate was

7 percent among 10th-graders and 14 percent for 12th-graders.

That’s the good news from the government’s annual drug use survey.

The bad news is that more teenagers are trying e-cigarettes. Nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders said they’d used an e-cigarette in the previous month, while just 4 percent reported smoking a traditional cigarette.

Use increased with age: About 16 percent of 10th-graders said they had tried an e-cigarette in the past month, and 17 percent of high school seniors reported trying them.

The survey didn’t ask about repeat use or if teens were just experimenting with something new. But between 4 percent and 7 percent of students who tried e-cigarettes said they’d never smoked a tobacco cigarette.

E-cigarettes often are described as a less dangerous alternative for regular smokers who can’t or don’t want to kick the habit. The battery-powered devices produce vapor infused with potentially addictive nicotine, but without the same chemicals and tar of tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes began to appear in the U.S. in 2006, but this was the first year that the Monitoring the Future survey asked teens about them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that during 2013, 4.5 percent of high school students had tried e-cigarettes during the prior month, a tripling since 2011.

The CDC reported this month that 10 states permit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Fortunately, Indiana is not among them. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed regulating e-cigarettes, including banning sales to minors.

The Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County includes information about e-cigarettes in material its speakers present to local students. Clearly, this information campaign needs to continue.

In addition, there is limited research on the effects of smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping, as it is known in the trade. Besides nicotine, it is not clear what other compounds are being inhaled and what deleterious effects they pose.

But this much is clear: E-cigarettes are a nicotine delivery vehicle, with all of the attendant addiction issues.

There no such thing as a “safe” cigarette, whether traditional or electronic. This message needs to be carried to young people on a regular basis so they don’t become hooked.

At issue

E-cigarettes are popular among teenagers, according to a recent national survey.

Our point

Young people need to be warned of the risks of e-cigarettes before they become addicted to nicotine.