Electronic cigarettes have surpassed traditional smoking in popularity among teens, the government's annual drug use survey finds. Even as tobacco smoking by teens dropped to new lows, use of e-cigarettes reached levels that surprised researchers. The findings marked the survey's first attempt to measure the use of e-cigarettes by people that young. Nearly 9% of eighth-graders said they'd used an e-cigarette in the previous month, while just 4% reported smoking a traditional cigarette, said the report being released today by the National Institutes of Health.
Use increased with age: Some 16% of 10th-graders had tried an e-cigarette in the past month, and 17% of high school seniors. Regular smoking continued inching down, to 7% of 10th-graders and 14% of 12th-graders. "I worry that the tremendous progress that we've made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes," says the 41,000-student survey's leader. Between 4% and 7% of students who tried e-cigarettes said they'd never smoked a tobacco cigarette, notes another study investigator. "They must think that e-cigarettes are fundamentally different," he says. (Read more e-cigarettes stories.)