The percentage of U.S. high school senior students using e-cigarettes almost doubled from 2017, according to a new survey released Monday by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. An estimated 3.6 million USA teens are now using e-cigarettes, representing 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle schoolers, according to the latest federal figures.
Responding to the rapid increase in vaping among teens, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last month that it will take steps to limit or ban access to flavored e-cigarettes.
This marks the largest annual increase in the 44-year history of the Monitoring the Future Survey, which takes a closer look at substance abuse among nationwide teenagers.
The annual survey, which also measures use of other substances including marijuana, alcohol and opioids, questioned more than 44,000 students from eighth, 10th and 12th grades in USA public and private schools.
"We are encouraged to see continued declines in a variety of measures of underage alcohol use", George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in a statement. "So we're not so sure that when they say they're just using flavorings that they really know what's in them", Compton said.
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The overall increase in vaping in the survey appears to be consistent with data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a 78% increase in youth vaping between 2017 and 2018, said Dr. Pamela Ling, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who works with the school's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and was not involved with the new report.
"Also, perhaps educational campaigns about the high risk of overdoses that are associated with the use of these substances, and the high risk of addiction to these substances, all of these factors may have had a positive impact (on) teenagers". But that's not quite as beneficial as it seems since the teens are replacing drug use with vaping and alcohol.
There's yet more disturbing news about kids vaping nicotine. "We are very concerned about the increase in vaping".
Juul, the company that now dominates the market, says its mission is to create "a world where fewer people use cigarettes, and where people who smoke cigarettes have the tools to reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely, should they so desire". Analysts now estimate the company controls more than 75 percent of the USA e-cigarette market.
Compton said more progress is needed, however.
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The survey showed that factors that make vaping so attractive to youth include its novelty and the easy concealability of the latest vaping devices, which better allows youth to vape without adults knowing about it.
Use of other illicit drugs - including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, ecstasy and hallucinogens - did not change substantially in the past year, according to the survey results.
Alcohol use also has declined. Teenage opioid use is also decreasing: 3.4 percent of seniors reported using prescription opioids in 2018, down from 4.2 percent in 2017 - and significantly lower than its peak of 9.5 percent in 2004. "Right now the number is more like 1.7 percent". Under 14 percent said they had been binge-drinking, defined as having five or more drinks in a row. While the devices are believed by many to be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes, they are far from harmless.
Students' growing attraction to vaping extended to marijuana, which increased by at least 50 percent across the board.
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