According to a report released by the federal government on Wednesday, vaping among U.S. teens has dropped dramatically, particularly among middle schoolers.
Experts believe that last year’s outbreaks of vaping-related illnesses may be responsible for some children not wanting to use the product. However, they also think other factors, such as higher age restrictions and flavor prohibitions, are contributing factors.
A national survey found that just under 20% of high school students and 5% of middle schoolers had recently used electronic cigarettes or other vaping devices. This is a significant drop from last year’s survey, which found that about 28 percent of high school students and around 11 percent of middle school students had recently vaped.
Officials said that according to the survey, the number of students who vape has dropped by 1.8 million in a single year.
The report also shows that disposable e-cigarettes are being used at a higher rate, even though teen usage has declined. In early 2018, the Food and Drug Administration banned flavors in small vaping devices such as Juul and other similar devices that teens mostly use. This policy didn’t apply to disposable electronic cigarettes, which are still allowed to have sweet, candy-like flavors.
Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a press release that “as long as flavored ecigarettes remain on the market kids will be able to get them and we won’t solve this crisis.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts a national survey at schools every year. It usually involves around 20,000 students in middle and high schools. The survey asks students whether they have used traditional or vaping tobacco in the past month. This year, the survey was cut short due to school closures caused by the coronavirus epidemic.
The federal health officials believe that measures such as public health media campaigns and price increases, along with sales restrictions, deserve credit for the decline in vaping. The age limit is now 21.
They also admit that the outbreak may have played a role. Brian King, CDC Director, said that sales began to decline in August when media coverage about the attack became more intense.
King said that it’s “possible” that the increased awareness has contributed to the decline in usage.
When the outbreak began to wind down in early 2018, more than 2,800 cases of illness and 68 fatalities had been reported. The majority of people who became sick said that they had vaped THC-containing solutions, which is the active ingredient in marijuana. The CDC focused its investigation on illicit THC liquids and black-market THC cartridges. They also looked at a chemical called vitamin E acetate, which was added to the liquids.
Kenneth Warner said that the drop in teen vaping was greater than expected.
Warner, an expert in tobacco control, said: “This is a substantial drop over a year. It’s encouraging.”
Warner cited the negative public perception of vaping as a possible factor. Juul also pulled all of its flavors, except for tobacco and menthol, last fall in anticipation of federal action.
Warner and other researchers tracked the recent decline of teen smoking, which has reached an all-time low — around 6% — despite vaping increasing. He said that it is important to monitor whether or not teen vaping starts to increase as teens quit smoking.
The new numbers were released on the day all U.S. manufacturers of vaping products faced a long overdue deadline to submit their products for FDA review. In general, this means that vaping companies have to show that their products can help smokers quit or reduce their consumption of tobacco products and cigarettes.
E-cigarettes were first introduced in the U.S. over a decade ago and have gained in popularity despite minimal federal regulations.