The number of children and teenagers who use e-cigarettes is slightly down this year, but not enough for health officials to stop calling it an “epidemic.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a release that 3.6 million youths have used e-cigarettes this year. That’s down from 5.4 million in 2019.
"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 CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield. "Youth e-cigarette use remains an epidemic, and [the] CDC is committed to supporting efforts to protect youth from this preventable health risk."
Vaping still common among youth
The CDC, which drew its findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, found that 8 in 10 middle and high school students who currently vape said they use flavored e-cigarettes. The use of mint and menthol flavored vaping products was also common among the demographic.
Health officials have been attempting to curb the rise in teen vaping for several years now. Efforts to drive down the rate of vaping among youth have focused on cracking down on sales of flavored products, which have been found to appeal to minors.
Unfortunately, researchers have found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to continue vaping.
“While many children try e-cigarettes, not all become regular users,” said researcher Adam Leventhal, who worked on a 2019 study out of the University of Southern California “Teens who use e-cigarettes may be more inclined to continue vaping rather than just temporarily experiment with e-cigs.”
“The longer and more frequently you vape, the more you’re exposing yourself to toxins in e-cigarette aerosol and put yourself at risk of nicotine addiction,” Leventhal said.
Working to drive down the numbers
In the latest analysis of data, the CDC found that 19.6 percent of high school students and 4.7 percent of middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2020 -- down from about 27 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in 2019.
"These findings reinforce the importance of continuing to focus on the strategies that work to reduce youth tobacco product use while keeping pace with emerging trends in tobacco products," said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Implementing these strategies at the national, state and local levels is integral to preventing and reducing youth tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes.”
In a statement, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said the agency “remains very concerned about the 3.6 million U.S. youth who currently use e-cigarettes” and that it “will do everything possible” to stop the health crisis.
"The findings come as we mark today's premarket review submission deadline, a milestone for ensuring new tobacco products, including many already on the market, undergo a robust scientific evaluation by the FDA,” Hahn said. “Scientific review of new products is a critical part of how we carry out our mission to protect the public -- especially kids -- from the harms associated with tobacco use.”