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Four out of five teens ages 12 to 17 who have used tobacco say the first product they tried was flavored, according to a new study by researchers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Teens are using flavored tobacco in e-cigarettes, hookah, little cigars and smokeless tobacco, HealthDay reports. Most teens who currently use tobacco said they had used a flavored tobacco product in the past month. Overall, about 21 percent of teens say they used tobacco. Among tobacco-using teens, about 81 percent said the first tobacco product they tried was flavored.
The findings, which come from a nationally representative survey of 13,651 teens, appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the FDA, flavored tobacco products have become increasingly common in the United States. On its website, the agency notes these products, containing flavors like vanilla, orange, chocolate, cherry and coffee, are especially attractive to youth. “They are widely considered to be ‘starter’ products, establishing smoking habits that can lead to a lifetime of addiction,” the FDA states. “Like all tobacco products, flavored tobacco products have serious health risks and are not considered safe by the FDA.”
“This confirms our worst fears,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, Senior Scientific Advisor for the American Lung Association, told HealthDay. “Young people are being hooked on tobacco products through the use of flavoring that appeals to them. When you see flavorings like bubble gum in a tobacco product, it’s obvious who they’re appealing to.”
In April 2014, the FDA announced new proposed rules that would allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes. They would ban the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco to anyone under age 18. The proposed rules do not ban flavors in e-cigarettes and cigars. The agency has not yet announced the final regulations.