E-Cigarette Use Rising Among Youth

NOVEMBER 16, 2018
Ryan Marotta, Associate Editor
A significant increase in e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students in the United States has driven an overall rise in youth tobacco consumption, according to survey results released by the FDA and the CDC.1

The survey results, published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reveal that the number of United States high school students who reported being current e-cigarette users increased 78% to 3.05 million between 2017 and 2018, while the number of middle school students who identified as current e-cigarette users increased 48% to 570,000 during this time period. The survey results also show the high school students who reported being current e-cigarette users also tended to use the product more frequently, with the proportion of those using the product on 20 or more of the past 30 days rising from 20% to 27.7%.

Overall, this rise in youth e-cigarette use in has led overall tobacco product use to increase by 38% among high school students and 29% among middle school students in the past year, reversing the progress made in this area over the last several years.

“These new data show that America faces an epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, which threatens to engulf a new generation in nicotine addiction,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. “By one measure, the rate of youth e-cigarette use almost doubled in the last year, which confirms the need for FDA’s ongoing policy proposals and enforcement actions. HHS’s work will continue to balance the need to prevent youth use of e-cigarettes with ensuring they are available as an off-ramp for adults who are trying to quit combustible cigarettes.”

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, announced plans to restrict the sale of most flavored versions of e-cigarettes, proposing that these devices be sold in in age-restricted retail locations. He also expressed support for a ban of menthol-flavored combustible cigarettes, noting that the flavor makes cigarettes more palatable to youth who might otherwise be repulsed by smoking.2

“Although we continue to believe that non-combustible tobacco products may provide an important opportunity to migrate adult smokers away from more harmful forms of nicotine delivery, these opportunities couldn’t come at the expense of addicting a generation of kids to nicotine,” Dr. Gottlieb said.

  1. Results from 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey show dramatic increase in e-cigarette use among youth over past year. FDA website. Published November 15, 2018. fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm625917.htm. Accessed November 15, 2018.
  2. Gottlieb S. Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on proposed new steps to protect youth by preventing access to flavored tobacco products and banning menthol in cigarettes. FDA website. Published November 15, 2018. fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm625884.htm. Accessed November 15, 2018.