The number of high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes dropped off this year, declining from last year’s record high. Just under 20 percent of high schoolers and about 5 percent of middle schoolers said that they currently used the products, according to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which was conducted between January and March.
Last year, 27.5 percent of high school students and 10.5 percent of middle school students said they used e-cigarettes.
“Although the decline in e-cigarette use among our Nation’s youth is a notable public health achievement, our work is far from over,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press release.
Teen use of a drug usually declines when that substance starts to seem riskier, Richard Miech, co-investigator of the Monitoring the Future study and professor at the University of Michigan, told The Verge last year. Last summer and fall, hundreds of lung injuries were linked to vaping. Investigations found that the injuries were likely linked to vitamin E acetate in THC-containing vaping products.
The US surgeon general called youth vaping an “epidemic” in 2018, after teen use of the products started to spike. That year, the National Youth Tobacco Survey found a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use compared to the previous year. E-cigarette use jumped again in 2019. Monitoring the Future, another annual teen drug use survey, also found sharp increases in teen vaping between 2017 and 2019, for both nicotine and marijuana.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took steps to curb e-cigarette use among teenagers, mainly by focusing on flavored tobacco products, which surveys showed were most popular with that age group. In January, the FDA ordered companies to pull any flavored products from the market. The agency also scrutinized the popular e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, over concerns it was intentionally marketing its products to teens. The company stopped selling flavored products in October 2019.
But teenagers are still using flavored e-cigarettes, according to the new survey data. Around 83 percent of the high schoolers who used e-cigarettes said they used flavored ones.
Pre-filled pods or cartridges (which get inserted into a reusable device) were the most widely used e-cigarette products for middle and high school students. But disposable vapes jumped in popularity this year — 1,000 percent more high school students used them in 2020 than in 2019.