Adults nationwide are concerned about the use of e-cigarettes by children and teens, with 44 percent indicating worries that the devices will encourage kids to use tobacco products, according to a new poll from the University of Michigan.
According to the latest University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, nearly half of parents are concerned their child will try e-cigarettes, which are battery-operated devices that look like cigarettes but don't burn tobacco.
E-cigarettes have replaceable cartridges of liquid containing nicotine, which is inhaled as a vapor along with flavors like chocolate, fruit, candy or even tobacco.
"This poll shows high levels of concern about e-cigarettes and the possibility that kids who try them could start smoking tobacco," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
In the poll, which was administered in November 2013 to 2,124 adults age 18 and over, arguments were presented both for and against e-cigarettes. Then adults were asked for their opinions about the devices and possible regulations and laws.
Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking and argue it may help smokers to quit.
Critics counter that e-cigarettes may have health risks and may encourage people and kids or teens to smoke tobacco. Currently, e-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Twenty-six states have regulations prohibiting sale to minors; Michigan's legislature currently has bills pending that prohibit those sales.
In the poll, 86% of adults said they have heard of e-cigarettes, while only 13% have ever tried one. Among parents, 48 percent said they are very or somewhat concerned that their children will try e-cigarettes.
Meanwhile, 65% of adults think e-cigarettes should have health warnings like tobacco cigarettes and nicotine products.
Adults also expressed widespread support for new laws regarding e-cigarettes: 88% think manufacturers should be required to test e-cigarettes for safety and 86% favor prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. 71% of adults support restricting the marketing of e-cigarettes on social networking sites.
"E-cigarettes are a relatively new product, with little information about safety or long-term health effects. However, the public is clearly aware of the devices and concerned about their impact, according to this month's poll results," says Davis, who is professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and professor of public policy at U-M's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "In 2010, the poll also asked about e-cigarettes and at that time only one-third of adults had heard of the product. In this poll, that number jumped to 86 percent."
"We hope the results of this poll spur more discussion about what governments can do to regulate e-cigarettes or restrict sales to minors. After all, taking these steps now will allow us to protect the health of both children and adults in the future."
Explore further: US study finds children's use of e-cigarettes is up (Update)