E-cigarette use has tripled among middle and high school students in the past year and now surpasses traditional cigarettes and every other tobacco product, according to the latest data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that more than 2 million high school students – 13.4 percent — are smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping as it is commonly called. That’s compared to 660,000 high schoolers, or 4.5 percent, in 2013. Among middle school students, e-cigarette use more than tripled, from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014, an increase from about 120,000 to 450,000 students.
Cigarette use declined among high school students and remained roughly the same for middle school students. But use of a hookah, water pipes used to smoke tobacco in different flavors such as apple, cherry and chocolate, doubled. Overall, from 2011 to 2014, there was no decline in overall tobacco use.
This past year, there was an estimated total of 2.4 million youths using e-cigarettes and 1.6 million youths using hookahs.
“Use of tobacco in any form by young Americans is a public health nightmare,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “We cannot stand by while more and more youth put themselves at risk for heart disease, stroke or even an early death. The takeaway message from this survey is loud and clear: tobacco regulations need to be finalized now.”
The U. S. 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. It’s been about a year since that proposed tobacco deeming rule was issued, and Brown says the new “disturbing” youth data increases the urgency for action by the target release date of June, if not sooner.
“We implore the agency to extend current advertising and marketing restrictions to children for all tobacco products under its final rule,” she said. “We also renew our request that the FDA ban kid-friendly e-cigarette flavors — more than 250 flavors are already being added every month. In addition, age verification practices must be applied to internet sales of e-cigarettes to prevent underage kids from getting hold of these tobacco products.”
The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report found that about 90 percent of all smokers experiment as teens; and that about three of every four teen smokers become adult smokers — even if they plan to quit in a few years.
The NYTS is a school-based, self-administered questionnaire given annually to middle and high-school students in both public and private schools. In 2014, it included 22,000 students and is a nationally representative survey.
The latest results showed the use of multiple tobacco products was common; nearly half of all middle and high school students who were current tobacco users used two or more types of tobacco products.
In 2014, high school students reported using these products in the past month:
- e-cigarettes 13.4 percent
- hookah 9.4 percent
- cigarettes 9.2 percent
- cigars 8.2 percent
- smokeless tobacco 5.5 percent
- snus, a smokeless tobacco named after the Swedish word for snuff. 1.9 percent
- pipes 1.5 percent
The products most commonly used by middle school students were:
- e-cigarettes 3.9 percent
- hookah 2.5 percent
- cigarettes 2.5 percent
- cigars 1.9 percent
- smokeless tobacco 1.6 percent
- pipes 0.6 percent
A CDC report in December said 40 states have laws prohibiting e-cigarettes to minors, but 10 states and the District of Columbia still permit such sales. That means, the agency said, more than 16 million children aged 17 and under can legally buy e-cigarettes because they live in states not covered by these laws.
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