Researchers from the CDC and FDA have announced that e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youths.
They found that 4.7 million middle and high school students reported being current users of a tobacco product in 2015, with more than 2.3 million of these students reporting using two or more different tobacco products.
Current use was defined as using a tobacco product at least once over the past 30 days.
The findings are published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Data for the research were obtained from the 2011-2015 National Youth Tobacco Surveys, designed to measure the use of seven different tobacco products among middle (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12) students.
Use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) among middle and high school students was found to have risen significantly. Specifically, the researchers note that 5.3% of middle school students and 16% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2015.
“E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and use continues to climb,” confirms CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The second most commonly used tobacco product among the students was cigarettes, although the researchers found that current use of cigarettes had declined from 2011 to 2015. Among high school students, use of cigarettes fell from 15.8% to 9.3%. Among middle school students, current use fell from 4.3% to 2.3%.
In 2015, 8.6% of high school students reported using cigars, 7.2% reported using hookahs and 6% reported using smokeless tobacco. Among middle school students, 2% reported using hookahs, 1.8% reported using smokeless tobacco and 1.6% reported using cigars.
‘No form of youth tobacco use is safe’
While the decrease in cigarette use is likely to be welcomed, the fact that overall tobacco use levels did not change remains a concern.
“No form of youth tobacco use is safe,” warns Dr. Frieden. “Nicotine is an addictive drug and use during adolescence may cause lasting harm to brain development.”
Tobacco use is currently the leading cause of preventable death in the US; worldwide, it is responsible for nearly 6 million deaths each year.
According to the CDC, around 5.6 million Americans aged younger than 18 who are alive today will die prematurely due to smoking-related diseases if current smoking rates continue.
Fast facts about e-cigarettes
- Although e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they do typically contain nicotine
- E-cigarettes do not currently come under existing FDA tobacco-product regulations.
Dr. Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, states that the fact that 1 in 4 high school students use tobacco, with almost half of these students using more than one tobacco product, is particularly concerning.
“We know about 90% of all adult smokers first try cigarettes as teens,” she says. “Fully implementing proven tobacco control strategies could prevent another generation of Americans from suffering from tobacco-related diseases and premature deaths.”
The researchers conclude that as the use of emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes is increasing, “it is critical that comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies for youths address all tobacco products and not just cigarettes.”
However, products such as e-cigarettes, hookahs and some types of cigar do not currently fall under the same regulatory authority that the FDA holds over cigarettes and other tobacco products. For the FDA, regulating how these products are manufactured and marketed is a major priority.
“The FDA remains deeply concerned about the overall high rate at which children and adolescents use tobacco products, including novel products such as e-cigarettes and hookah,” says Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. He adds:
“Finalizing the rule to bring additional products under the agency’s tobacco authority is one of our highest priorities, and we look forward to a day in the near future when novel tobacco products like e-cigarettes and hookah are properly regulated and responsibly marketed.”
Other ways in which the CDC and FDA aim to reduce and prevent youth tobacco use are with tobacco control programs, media campaigns, additional smoke-free laws and through raising the prices of tobacco products.
Previously, Medical News Today reported on a study in the UK indicating that e-cigarettes helped up to 22,000 English smokers to quit in 2014.