Vaping among teens spikes, luring new generation of kids into tobacco use

Vaping in US high schools

Vaping among American teenagers continues to rise at an alarming rate, hitting record levels in 2018.

The proportion of high school seniors who reported vaping nicotine in the last month rose to 20.9 percent in 2018, a almost 10-percentage-point increase from 11 percent in 2017, according to results released Monday.

The survey of 44,482 students from 392 public and private schools was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and conducted by researchers at the University of MI.

Behind drinking alcohol, vaping was the second-most common form of substance use, the study showed, with 17.6% of eighth-graders, 32.3% of 10th-graders and 37.3% of 12th-graders reporting vaping in the past year. Perceived prevalence of vaping devices and liquids increased from 45.7 percent to 66.6 percent among teenagers since past year.

E-cigarette makers, including San Francisco-based Juul Labs Inc, have also faced scrutiny from the FDA amid the increase in teenage use of the devices, which look like a USB flash drive and vaporize a flavored liquid containing nicotine.

"We are encouraged to see continued declines in a variety of measures of underage alcohol use", George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in a statement.

These health experts grew concerned as despite the fact that Public Health England has openly endorsed e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools, data indicated that the number of smokers switching from smoking to vaping per year, has dropped from 800,000 to 100,000.

The survey has tracked drug, alcohol and cigarette use among teens since 1975.

That is double the amount of new e-cig users compared to a year ago.

The steady decline in teens' use of other drugs makes the growth in vaping all the more concerning, Compton said.

The federally funded survey released Monday is conducted by University of MI researchers and has been operating since 1975. Fewer high school seniors used other tobacco products, including the once-popular hookah pipes, smokeless tobacco and tiny cigars. Analysts now estimate the company controls more than 75 percent of the US e-cigarette market. The liquids come in kid-friendly flavors - from watermelon to the more exotic "unicorn puke" - that release fruity and sweet vapors, making e-cigs easier to disguise than traditional cigarettes. "Because it may contain nicotine and mimics the act of smoking, the electronic cigarette, falls in this Directive".

"This increase was driven exclusively by nicotine vaping, given that the use of each of the other six nicotine products declined", the researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. Regulators will need to pay close attention to the fast-changing market and be ready to modify their policies if necessary, they said.

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