(NBC News) - You don't have to look much farther than your local high
school to find out what's hip, and more often that's e-cigarettes.
"It's increasing so rapidly that we're really concerned about what we're going to see in the future," says Dr. Lauren Dutra.
Dr. Dutra and colleagues at the University Of California, San Francisco examined data from two large national surveys of about 20,000 middle and high school kids.
In just one year the number of kids who tried e-cigarettes doubled, from 3-percent in 2011 to 6.5-percent in 2012.
"We also saw that the kids who'd used e-cigarettes were more likely to progress from experimenting with conventional tobacco cigarettes to becoming regular tobacco cigarette users," Dr. Dutra notes.
This snapshot of teenage life does not prove e-cigarette usage leads to tobacco smoking, but experts say the nicotine delivered through these devices can alter the developing teen brain.
"There's a part of the brain called the limbic system that is very susceptible to the effects of nicotine and it relates to behavior control as well as emotional development," explains Dr. David Tinkelman of National Jewish Health.
There's also concern the devices can be modified to be used with other drugs such as marijuana or alcohol.
"I've even heard stories of kids filling these devices with vodka and trying to vape vodka," Dr. Dutra says.
In a previous statement the parent company of Blu e-cigarettes, Lorillard, expressed support for federal regulation of e-cigarettes that restricts youth access.
We did not get a reply from the company regarding this latest study.
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