Teen Vaping Craze Shows No Signs of Easing, U.S. Officials Say
(Bloomberg) -- An estimated 2 million U.S. teens are using e-cigarettes, with many preferring flavored products and newer devices, suggesting what regulators once dubbed an epidemic of youth vaping drags on.
About 1.72 million, or 11.3%, of high school students and about 320,000, or 2.8%, of middle school students said they currently use e-cigarettes, according to the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Current use is defined as one or more days in the past month.
This year’s results aren’t directly comparable to prior years because the survey was conducted online rather than in classrooms due to the pandemic, the agencies said. Last year’s survey estimated that 3.6 million teens were using e-cigarettes. While that suggests progress, some say that’s not enough.
“These data highlight the fact that flavored e-cigarettes are still extremely popular with kids,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a statement, adding the agency is equally disturbed that a quarter of high school students say they vape every day.
Of the teens who said they currently use e-cigarettes, 85% use flavored products. Fruit was the most popular type of flavor reported across school levels and type of device.
More than half said they use disposable devices, or those that come pre-filled with nicotine, reversing the trend from the past few years. A little more than a quarter said they use the cartridge-based devices that Juul Labs Inc. made popular.
The most commonly used brand among high school students was Puff Bar, which makes disposable devices and has been the subject of FDA action for allegedly selling its products illegally. Just 6% said their usual brand was Juul, a stunning turn from just a few years ago when regulators were naming the company as the culprit of a spike in teen vaping. Yet that number was higher among middle school students, with about 13% saying Juul was their usual brand.
The results come as the FDA finalizes its review of millions of e-cigarettes hoping to stay on the U.S. market. The agency has already denied about 1 million products in addition to a few million other products it refused to review in the first place because of incomplete applications. It has yet to decide on requests from the largest manufacturers, including Juul.
It’s unclear how meaningful the FDA’s decisions will be on the broader marketplace. The threat of enforcement hasn’t stopped stopped new products from cropping up in recent years. Vape shops who sell to adults switching from cigarettes may not want to close their doors.
The results could add pressure to the agency to pursue tougher actions. The annual survey serves as an influential guide to policy makers. Two years ago, the findings made their way to the highest level of the federal government, prompting then-President Donald Trump to take up the issue.
(Michael R. Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has funded efforts to ban flavored vaping products.)
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