0414-News-Teens smoke_Blog

Although cigarette, cigar and smokeless tobacco use among middle and high school students has fallen during the past five years, such progress has been canceled out by rising e-cigarette use – currently at an all-time high among kids, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the second consecutive year, e-cigarettes are the most-used tobacco product by middle and high school students, surpassing traditional cigarettes, according to the 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey released Thursday.

Data show that 4.7 million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2015, and half used two or more types of products. Three million students smoked e-cigarettes, or vaping as it is commonly called, in 2015, up from 2.46 million in 2014. Students who smoked cigarettes totaled 1.63 million in 2015, down slightly from 1.66 million in 2014.

“E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and use continues to climb,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., said in a news release. “No form of youth tobacco use is safe. Nicotine is an addictive drug and use during adolescence may cause lasting harm to brain development.”

Nearly nine out of 10 smokers started by age 18, according to the Surgeon General’s 2012 report on youth and smoking. Although traditional cigarette use has dropped among youth in recent years, the rate of any tobacco product use among teens remains alarmingly high.

High schoolers reported using these tobacco products within the past month:

  • E-cigarettes: 16 percent
  • Cigarettes: 9.3 percent
  • Cigars: 8.6 percent
  • Hookahs: 7.2 percent
  • Smokeless tobacco: 6 percent
  • Pipe tobacco: 1 percent
  • Bidis: 0.6 percent

Tobacco products used by middle school students within the past month were:

  • E-cigarettes: 5.3 percent
  • Cigarettes: 2.3 percent
  • Hookahs: 2 percent
  • Smokeless tobacco: 1.8 percent
  • Cigars: 1.6 percent
  • Pipe tobacco: 0.4 percent
  • Bidis: 0.2 percent

The Food and Drug Administration, which currently governs cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, has proposed a rule to bring other products such as e-cigarettes and hookahs under its authority. That rule, proposed almost exactly two years ago, is still pending.

However, a spending bill that funds the FDA includes a rider to prevent the agency from moving forward with the rule unless it agrees to exempt many cigars from federal regulation.

“For nearly two years the rule that could bring e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products under federal oversight has languished in an unacceptable bureaucratic limbo,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement.

“With no rule in place, the door has been left wide open for more tobacco advertising and marketing aimed at luring our kids into taking up a deadly habit [and this] survey suggests that their efforts have been successful,” she said. “No form of tobacco use is safe. These products pose a public health risk, especially to vulnerable young people.”

This year, legislation to increase the tobacco purchase age to 21 has been introduced in more than a dozen states and in Congress, and several additional states may soon see similar proposals. Outside of Hawaii, which this year became the first state to raise the purchase age to 21, the current minimum age for tobacco sales is 18, except in four states. In Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah, the minimum age is 19.

According to the new report, if current smoking trends continue, 5.6 million Americans who are currently under 18 are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related diseases.