More middle and high school students are using e-cigarettes than ever before

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The use of e-cigarettes among middle and high schoolers in the U.S. is skyrocketing, according to new data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to the new data, which comes from an annual survey of middle and high schoolers across the country, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product in 2015.

SEE ALSO: Not so fast, vapers: British medical journal blasts e-cigarette safety study

A total of 3 million middle and high school students reported current use of e-cigarettes in 2015 — up from 2.46 million last year. Another 1.7 million students reported smoking regular cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The rising use of e-cigarettes, which many studies show present similar health risks as smoking regular cigarettes do, served to offset a decline in the use of conventional cigarettes among middle and high schoolers between 2011 to 2015.

This means that the overall smoking rate among American youth was unchanged during this five-year period.

Learn more about e-cigarettes:

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More middle and high school students are using e-cigarettes than ever before
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 7, 2015, Will Braaten, 19, exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at the Vapor Spot, in Sacramento, Calif. As e-cigarettes rise in popularity, “vape shops” are popping up around the nation, places where customers can gather to inhale doses of nicotine through a flavored vapor solution. Industry officials say California is at the epicenter, with an estimated 1,400 retailers, operating largely without regulations in a Wild West atmosphere, but rules are imminent. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Jonathan Brower is the owner of Waldo Vapes in Kansas City, Mo., which sells some high-end vaping products. (David Pulliam/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 28: A customer smokes an E-Cigarette at Digita Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 28: Rhiannon Griffith-Bowman smokes an E-Cigarette at Digital Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 28: A customer smokes an E-Cigarette at Digita Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 28: A customer smokes an E-Cigarette at Digital Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 28: E-Cigarette vaporizer components are displayed at Digital Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 24: The Ontario government announces new prohibitions on smoking E-Cigarettes any place real cigarettes are banned. (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Cliff Phillips, a 61-year-old retiree and former smoker, and his wife, Vali, enjoy electronic cigarettes at their home in Cuba, Ill., Tuesday, May 31, 2011. Electronic cigarettes like the one used by Phillips are at the middle of a social and legal debate over whether it's OK to "light up" in places where regular smokes are banned. E-cigarettes, which are gaining popularity and scrutiny worldwide, are plastic and metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge, creating vapor that the "smoker" inhales. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
This Aug. 14, 2014 photo shows child-proof refill bottles of liquid nicotine at Salt Lake Vapors, in Salt Lake City. Poison control workers say that as the e-cigarette industry has boomed, the number of children exposed to the liquid nicotine that gives hand-held vaporizing gadgets their kick also is spiking. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that more than 2,700 people have called about a liquid nicotine exposure this year, up from a few hundred cases three years ago. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Daryl Cura demonstrates an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
In this photo taken Thursday, July 16, 2015, Scot Taylor, left, manager of the Vapor Spot and customer Bruce Schillin, 32 exhale vapor from e-cigarettes at the e-cigarette store in Sacramento, Calif. As e-cigarettes rise in popularity, “vape shops” are popping up around the nation, places where customers can gather to inhale doses of nicotine through a flavored vapor solution. Industry officials say California is at the epicenter, with an estimated 1,400 retailers, operating largely without regulations in a Wild West atmosphere, but rules are imminent. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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"E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and use continues to climb," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a statement.

"No form of youth tobacco use is safe. Nicotine is an addictive drug and use during adolescence may cause lasting harm to brain development."

Sixteen percent of high school and 5.3 percent of middle school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2015, the survey shows. This was the second straight year that e-cigarettes were the most commonly-used tobacco product among American youth, the CDC said in a press release.

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If current smoking rates continue, the CDC found, 5.6 million young Americans alive today "are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease."

Smoking-related illnesses, including lung cancer and emphysema, are the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

In 2015, 25.3 percent of high school students reported that they currently use a tobacco product, including 13 percent who said they currently use two or more such products.

One in four high school students and one in 13 middle school students also reported that they currently use any tobacco product, with e-cigarettes as the most popular product in both age groups.

The use of e-cigarettes rose particularly sharply among high schoolers in the past five years, going from 1.5 percent of high school students in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015.

Meanwhile, the use of conventional cigarettes among high schoolers declined during the same period.

Public health authorities in the U.S., UK and other countries are grappling with how to regulate e-cigarettes and discourage their use, much as they have done with regular cigarettes, due to the health risks.

Meanwhile, the health risks from such products are still being evaluated, with some studies showing that e-cigarettes may not be quite as dangerous as regular cigarettes, while others show greater risk.

The FDA has regulatory authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products, but is in the process of finalizing the rule for it to oversee e-cigarettes.

"The FDA remains deeply concerned about the overall high rate at which children and adolescents use tobacco products, including novel products such as e-cigarettes and hookah," said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, in a press release.

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