Florida's teen smoking rate may have recently dropped significantly, but on the flipside, the e-cigarette usage rate has taken a big leap.

The state's Department of Health recently conducted their annual Youth Tobacco Survey for middle and high school students in Florida.

Survey respondents were asked to rate their usage based on criteria of whether they have: ever tried to smoke, are currently smoking (used tobacco products once within the last month) or frequently using (smoked at least 20 times during the past month).

Based on the data, the number of students who have tried smoking at least once have dropped to a new low of 35 to 45 percent less than the first survey back at 1998. 

The number of current and frequent users have decreased as well. Only 2 percent of middle school and 6 percent high school students were categorized as current smokers. An even lower 0.6 percent middle school and 2.5 percent high school youth can be considered as frequent smokers.

However, at least 37 percent of high school and 14 percent middle school students have tried e-cigarette smoking, or vaping, at least once. This was troubling and significantly higher than last year's rates of 20.5 percent of high school and 8.5 percent for middle school youths.

An increase in vaping use has been seen as well. Currently 15.8 percent of high school students can be considered as current vapers and 2.9 percent of them are already frequent users.

"The use of e-cigarettes, and this dramatic increase that we're seeing among youth, threatens to normalize smoking again," said Director Shannon Hughes of the department's Community Health Promotion Division, whose division has put years of hard work in educating and discouraging youths from smoking.

The survey also found that Caucasians are more prone to take up e-cigarette smoking than Hispanics or Afro-Americans.

E-cigarette popularity has gone up in the recent years due to being touted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, experts warn that e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and could still have detrimental effects on the respiratory system and other organs.

"We do not yet know whether unapproved nicotine delivery products, such as e-cigarettes, are safer than normal cigarettes, despite marketing claims that they are less harmful," said Professor Christina Gratziou, Chair of the European Respiratory Society Tobacco Control Committee. "[However,] we found an immediate rise in airway resistance in our group of participants, which suggests e-cigarettes can cause immediate harm after smoking the device."

Already, Florida has made their move to control e-cigarette use. Just last year, the government of Florida has banned selling of e-cigarettes to people under 18 years old, hoping to discourage minors from vaping. 

Photo: Joseph Morris | Flickr

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