Vaping Boom Among Teens, While Drug Use Is Down

Teenager vaping

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

In the annual Monitoring the Future survey on drug use among adolescents, federally funded researchers reported Monday that more than one in three high school seniors and almost one in three sophomores say they vaped at least once in the past year.

It seems e-cigs may have distracted teens from tobacco products, at least for now, with just 3.6 percent of high school seniors smoking every day, down from 22.4 percent two decades ago.

It was the largest single-year increase in the survey's 44-year history, far surpassing a mid-1970s surge in marijuana smoking.

Among 12th-graders, the proportion of students who said they had vaped a nicotine product in the 30 days before they took the survey soared from 11 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent in 2018.

The survey has tracked drug, alcohol and cigarette use among teens since 1975. Misuse of prescription opioids also decreased.

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. Other e-cigarettes use "e-juice" or nicotine liquids that not only come in appealing flavors but are often packaged to look like candy.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has described teen vaping an "epidemic".

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"Kids have been able to get their hands on and use them in ways that are a lot easier to use than a combustible cigarette", Kovall said.

The steady decline in teens' use of other drugs makes the growth in vaping all the more concerning, Compton said. The store does not sell Juul pods.

Miech applauded the FDA's recent focus on kid-friendly flavors of vaping liquids.

"The policies and procedures in place to prevent youth vaping clearly haven't worked", said Richard Miech of the University of MI, who led the study.

The survey also found a significant jump in the perceived availability of e-cigarettes.

If vaping does lead to cigarette use among teens, that may start to show up in the survey as early as next year, he added. In 2018, 7.5 percent of seniors, 7 percent of sophomores and 2.6 percent of eighth-graders said they had vaped marijuana in the past 30 days. Other illicit drugs, including cocaine, synthetic cannabinoids, and MDMA as well as alcohol also remained at historic lows. It found 1 in 5 high school seniors reported having vaped nicotine in the previous month.

The annual report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows children are vaping nicotine as well as marijuana.

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