Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes, according to a recent report put out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This probably does not come as a surprise to anyone with decent youth culture awareness.

Perhaps the more telling statistic — and certainly more alarming one — states that teen e-cigarette users are much more likely to start smoking. In fact, 30.7 percent of e-cigarette users will start smoking within six months versus only 8.1 percent of non-users.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responding to this alarming trend. In an effort to decrease youth tobacco use, the FDA announced on Nov. 15 plans to strengthen the agency's compliance policy for electronic nicotine delivery systems products that are flavored by requiring they be sold in age-restricted locations in person and improving age verification processes for online.

The announcement comes after the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's release of the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey results, which shows more than 3.6 million middle and high school students are considered current (past 30 days) e-cigarette users — an increase of more than 1.5 million students in 2017.

"The data show that kids using e-cigarettes are going to be more likely to try combustible cigarettes later. This is a large pool of future risk," said Scott Gottlieb, M.D., FDA commissioner.

The policies being outlined now attempt to strike a careful public health balance between the imperative to enable the opportunities to transition to noncombustible products to be available for adults; and a solemn mandate to make nicotine products less accessible and less appealing to children.

"The data make unmistakably clear that, if we're to break the cycle of addiction to nicotine, preventing youth initiation on nicotine is a paramount imperative," he added.

American Dental Association President Jeffrey M. Cole called the FDA's Nov. 15 statement a positive step to help protect America’ youth.

"We are concerned about the many health risks associated with the increased use of nontraditional tobacco products like e-cigarettes, especially among youth and young adults," Dr. Cole said. "We are hopeful the FDA will begin enforcing its tobacco product 'deeming rule,' which would impose similar requirements on all 'next generation' tobacco products."