Vaping's Popularity Falls Among U.S. High School Students

THURSDAY, Nov. 2, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Warnings about the dangers of vaping may be reaching American teens: A new U.S. government report shows e-cigarette use is down among high school students.

In fact, use of any tobacco product over the past 30 days declined among this age group during the 2022-2023 school year, from 16.5% to 12.6%.

This was driven largely by a decline in e-cigarette use, which dropped from 14.1% to 10%.

“The decline in e-cigarette use among high school students shows great progress, but our work is far from over,” said Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

“Findings from this report underscore the threat that commercial tobacco product use poses to the health of our nation’s youth," Kittner said in a CDC news release. "It is imperative that we prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and help those who use tobacco to quit.” 

Still, anti-smoking advocates welcomed the findings.

"It is terrific news for our nation’s health that e-cigarette use among high school students fell sharply this year, while use of cigarettes, cigars and other smoked tobacco products are at record lows," said Yolonda Richardson, president and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "These results are powerful evidence that with the right policies and public education campaigns, we can drive down and even eliminate youth use of all tobacco products. They show that we can reduce youth e-cigarette use without a resurgence in cigarette smoking."

But Richardson added the battle is not over.

"Despite this progress, youth e-cigarette use remains a serious public health problem in the United States, and it continues to be driven by the widespread availability of illegal and unauthorized flavored products that must be taken off the market." she noted in a statement. "Over 2 million kids still use e-cigarettes and over a third of them use e-cigarettes daily or most days, a strong indication they are addicted to the high-nicotine products now on the market."

And that addiction may be developing in even younger teens: Among middle school students, significant increases occurred during the 2022-2023 year in current use of at least one tobacco product, from 4.5% to 6.6%, and the use of multiple tobacco products, from 1.5% to 2.5%. 

"The possible uptick in e-cigarette use among middle school students is also cause for concern and underscores the urgent need to eliminate flavored e-cigarettes," Richardson said.

E-cigarettes continue to be the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students.

About half of students who ever tried e-cigarettes reported currently using them, suggesting that many youths who try e-cigarettes continue to vape, according to the CDC.

Among students reporting current e-cigarette use, about a quarter reported vaping daily. Nearly 9 in 10 used flavored e-cigarettes.

The study, published Nov. 3 in the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is based on findings from the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

That survey includes information on current and past use of nine tobacco product types, flavored tobacco products and e-cigarette use behaviors in students in grades 6 through 12.

About 2.8 million, or 10%, of middle and high school students reported current use of a tobacco product in 2023. Additionally, 2.2 million, 7.7%, of students reported current e-cigarette use in 2023.

E-cigarette use was followed in descending numbers by cigarettes and cigars, nicotine pouches, smokeless tobacco, other oral nicotine products, hookah, heated tobacco products and pipe tobacco. 

Disposable products were most common, but the most popular brands included both disposable and cartridge-based products. Among current users, popular brands were Elf Bar (56.7%); Esco Bars (21.6%); Vuse (20.7%); JUUL (16.5%), and Mr. Fog (13.6%).

It’s unsafe for youth to use tobacco products, which contain nicotine and can harm the developing adolescent brain, the CDC said. Using these products can also lead to lifelong addiction and later disability, disease and death.

Flavors, marketing and misperceptions of harm all influence youth tobacco use, according to the CDC.

It’s critical to continue monitoring youth tobacco use, have a comprehensive approach to prevention and strategies to help youth quit, the CDC said.

Price increases, comprehensive smoke-free policies counter-marketing campaigns, and health care interventions will continue to reduce the numbers of youth who start smoking.

More information

The American Lung Association has more on tobacco use in children and teens.

SOURCES: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Nov. 3, 2023; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Nov. 2, 2023; Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, news release, Nov. 2, 2023

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