WASHINGTON – Teenage vaping has fallen this year as many American students have been forced to learn at home during the pandemic, according to a government report released Thursday.
U.S. health officials have urged caution in interpreting the figures, which were collected using an online questionnaire for the first time. But external experts have said that the sharp decline in e-cigarette use is likely real and logical given that young people often vape socially.
“They saw a dramatic drop from last year and it’s hard to imagine that this does not represent a real decrease in use among high school and middle school students,” said Dr Nancy Rigotti of the Harvard University, which was not involved in the research.
In the national survey, 11% of high school students and less than 3% of middle school students said they were recent users of e-cigarettes and other vaping products, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control reported. and Prevention.
That’s a drop of around 40% from last year, when nearly 20% of high school students and 5% of middle school students reported having recently vaped.
If this year’s numbers hold up, it would be the second big drop in a row, from a peak of 28% for high school students in 2019.
Even before the pandemic, a number of new restrictions limited the use of e-cigarettes by minors. At the end of 2019, a new federal law raised the purchase age of all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. Soon after, the FDA banned almost all flavors from small cartridge e-cigarettes, which first sparked the teen vaping craze.
Additionally, some children may have been frightened by an epidemic of vaping-related illnesses and deaths; most were linked to a charge in black market vaping liquids containing THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high.
For months, tobacco experts have speculated on the potential effect of school closures on vaping, given that most teens vape with their friends and get e-cigarettes from their peers.
Rigotti said the drop will need to be confirmed by further surveys expected later this year. It’s also difficult to predict if vaping could rebound now that most schools have returned to in-person classes.
“I’m sure the schools are working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen,” she said.
Previously, the investigation was always carried out in the classrooms. This year took place online from January to May to welcome students at home and at school. Tobacco control advocates point out that students who took the survey at school reported higher vaping rates – 16% versus 8% for students learning at home.
Overall, government officials estimate that around 2 million American teens and teens vape, a number they say is far too high.
“Electronic cigarette use among young people remains a serious public health problem,” CDC specialist Karen Hacker said in a statement.
Thursday’s report comes as the FDA is set to impose even greater limits on the vaping industry. The agency is in the midst of an extensive federal review to decide which brands and products of e-cigarettes can stay in the market, after years of regulatory delays.
In September, the agency announced a ban on thousands of products, but it has yet to rule on a handful of big manufacturers who account for most of the sales, including Juul and Vuse.
New government figures show teenage vaping habits are moving away from these brands. The main brand cited by high school students is a disposable e-cigarette called Puff Bar which comes in flavors like pink lemonade, strawberry, and mango. Disposable e-cigarettes are not subject to the strict flavor restrictions of products like Juul, which is only available in menthol and tobacco. Only 6% of students who vape said they prefer Juul.