CDC and FDA report shows drop in tobacco use among school-aged children.
The proportion of youth who are current smokers is dropping, according to findings from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The CDC and FDA reported that the number of middle and high school students who have used tobacco within the last 30 days decreased from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016.
The agencies reported that the decline in tobacco use was driven by a reduction in e-cigarette use among this population, from 3 million in 2015 to 2.2 million in 2016. The decline was also seen among students who used at least 2 tobacco products.
“Far too many young people are still using tobacco products, so we must continue to prioritize proven strategies to protect our youth from this preventable health risk,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC acting director.
The CDC and FDA believe that tobacco prevention and control strategies played a role in the reduction in tobacco use, especially for e-cigarettes; however, continued surveillance is necessary to determine if the trend continues in the future, according to the press release.
In 2016, the FDA implemented new regulations that made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco to individuals younger than 18 years. Since then, the FDA has issued more than 4000 warning letters to retailers selling these products to children, according to a statement from Scott Gottlieb, MD, FDA commissioner.
“While these latest numbers are encouraging, it is critical that we work to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products,” Dr Gottlieb said. “The FDA has invested heavily in compelling, science-based education campaigns, such as ‘The Real Cost,’ that have already helped prevent nearly 350,000 kids from smoking cigarettes, and continues to enforce important youth access restrictions. We plan to build on these vital efforts to reduce tobacco-related disease and death.”
The report found that 1.8 million middle and high school students reported the use of 2 or more tobacco products. In 2016, 47.2% of high school-aged tobacco students and 42.4% of middle school-aged tobacco students used 2 or more products, according to the study.
Overall, 20.2% of high school students and 7.2% of middle school students used tobacco products. For the third consecutive year, the agencies found that 11.3% of high school students and 4.3% of middle school students used e-cigarettes.
After e-cigarettes, high school students commonly used cigarettes (8%), cigars (7.7%), and smokeless tobacco (5.8%). Middle school students also reported higher uses of the aforementioned products, with 2.2% of the students using each.
Specifically, among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic high school students, e-cigarettes were the most common product, while cigars were the most common product among non-Hispanic black students, according to the report.
The agencies also discovered that cigarette use was higher among non-Hispanic whites compared with non-Hispanic blacks. The use of smokeless tobacco was also higher among non-Hispanic whites compared with other races, according to the study.
“Tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for youth,” said Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, MPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “Tobacco products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain."