E-Cigarette Use Rises to 16% of High School Students; Update on Sugary Drinks; Gut Bacteria and Childhood Asthma Linked

e-Cigarette Use Could ‘Normalize’ Smoking Again, Health Officials Warn

A new report from the Florida Department Health finds that current e-cigarette use among high school students has increased from 5.4 percent in 2013 to 15.8 percent in 2015.

This troubling trend comes as the rate of cigarette smoking among teens in Florida is at an all-time low, according to the new data. Conventional cigarette use among Florida high school students dropped from 8.6 percent in 2013 to 6.9 percent in 2015 – a 19.7 percent decrease.

But e-cigarette use and the number of teens who smoke flavored and unflavored tobacco through a Hookah water pipe device is on the rise. Hookah use among high school students has increased from 8.2 percent in 2013 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Since 2009, when the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey began tracking current hookah use, the rate has increased 26 percent.

“This alarming increase in e-cigarette use among teens has the potential to normalize smoking again after decades of hard work in Florida and across the country to reverse that norm,” said Shannon Hughes, director of the Community Health Promotion Division for the Florida Department of Health.“We are evaluating the best way to address this trend because, while there is much debate about e-cigarettes, we can all agree it is vital that we prevent our youth from becoming addicted to anything, including e-cigarettes and tobacco products of any kind.”

The new data from the 2015 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey also found that:
• Since Tobacco Free Florida launched in 2007, the current cigarette smoking rate among Florida youth, ages 11 to 17, decreased by 63.8 percent – from 10.5 percent in 2007 to 3.8 percent in 2015. Current use means at least once during the past 30 days.
• In 2015, 22.9 percent of high school students reported ever trying a cigarette, a 43.7 percent decrease since 2007.
• In 2015, 8.5 percent of high school students reported current cigar use, a 37.7 percent decrease since 2007.
• In just two years, the number of Florida youth who reported ever trying e-cigarettes tripled from 4.3 percent in 2013 to 14.7 percent in 2015 among middle school students, and 12.1 percent in 2013 to 37.6 percent in 2015 among high school students.

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  • — John Fernandez

    Study Suggests Link Between Gut Bacteria and Childhood Asthma

    Babies who are missing, or have very low levels of, certain types of gut bacteria during the first 100 days of life may be at risk of developing asthma.

    Canadian researchers from University of British Columbia and Children’s Hospital in Vancouver compared the gut bacteria of more than 300 babies at three months old and at one year. They found the babies who had less amounts of four types of bacteria — Lachnospira, Veillonella, Faecalibacterium, and Rothia — at three months old showed early signs of asthma, such as wheezing and skin allergies, by the age of one.

    The study suggests several factors are preventing newborns from acquiring the bacteria naturally. These include pregnant women’s use of antibiotics, C-section deliveries, city living and formula feeding.

    The researchers say their findings may lead to the development of a simple, stool-based diagnostic test to predict asthma risk in babies and children, as well as possible probiotic treatments to prevent the disease.

    In the U.S., 6.8 million children have asthma, and more boys than girls suffer from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The percentage of the overall U.S. population with asthma increased from 3.1 percent in 1980 to 8.4 percent in 2010, says the CDC.

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  • — Tanya Racoobian Walton

    New Warning About Sweet Drinks

    There’s more evidence about the health risks linked to sugary drinks, including sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks and sweetened coffee or tea.

    Roughly 50 percent of U.S. residents consume some type of sugary beverage every day, the study says. About 25 percent consume about 200 calories each day from sweet drinks, and 5 percent of the U.S. population consumes 500 calories – roughly four cans of soda— every day from sugary drinks.

    “There is compelling evidence that drinking too many sugar-sweetened beverages, which contain added sugars in the form of high fructose corn syrup or table sugar (sucrose), can lead to excess weight gain and a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. That journal recently published a Harvard-led study that examined the health effects of sugary drinks.

    The health effect of daily consumption of sugary drinks, the Harvard study says, translates into an increased risk of developing a number of diseases, including:

    • Type 2 diabetes: up to a 25 percent higher risk.
    • Heart attack or fatal coronary disease: 35 percent greater risk.
    • Stroke: 16 percent higher risk.

    “This is particularly concerning as the research shows that consuming one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day has been linked to greater weight gain and obesity in numerous published studies,” says Dr. Frank Hu, M.D., Ph.D., and lead researcher from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain because the liquid calories are not filling, and so people don’t reduce their food intake at subsequent meals.

    These findings underscore the urgent need for “public health strategies that reduce the consumption of these drinks,” says Dr. Hu.

    See related articles:

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  • New Dietary Guidelines: More Plant-Based Foods, Less Added Sugars
  • –Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

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