The recent popularity of e-cigarettes has led to a large number of young people using it over the past decade. A recent study has concluded, however, the number of teens who are now using e-cigs has actually declined in the last year. In fact, 20 percent of kids in high school and 5 percent of those in middle school maintained they used e-cigarettes, which marks a downshift in usage from 2019.
These stats are courtesy of the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which was done in the months between January and March. The amount of data was a bit less than previous years because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is still significant. In order to be counted as an e-cigarette user, a student would only need to use the product just once in the last 30 days.Read More »
Many anti-tobacco advocates have seen this decline as a positive step in the right direction, though they also know there is a lot of work to be done to lower those percentages even further.
One reason for this decline might be because more is becoming publicized about the use of e-cigarettes and vaping in general. The levels of usage by teens of a drug will decline when an added risk is known. This is exactly what happened with vaping after a decent number of lung injuries were linked to use of the popular substance. There were several studies done that found that certain forms of vaping products that contained THC had a vitamin E acetate that caused lung related problems. This specific injury led to at least 68 deaths and nearly 3,000 hospitalizations, according to the CDC.
This flurry of negative buzz about e-cigs in the news certainly has played a role in the decreasing number of users. During the beginning of the e-cigs rise to popularity, the products had often been pitched by those using them and selling them as a healthier alternative to cigarettes and other forms of tobacco and not as much of a health risk. However, there is still a lot to be learned about this fairly recent phenomenon as these injuries certainly indicate.
The rise in teen e-cig usage has been well known for several years now, as the U.S. Surgeon General even called its usage by young adults an “epidemic” in 2018. This was a crucial year for e-cigs, as the National Youth Tobacco Survey saw an astounding increase of 78 percent in the number of high schoolers using the products from the previous year. Usage continued to rise while the amount of marijuana and nicotine did too between 2017 and 2019, according to survey group Monitoring the Future.
Another reason for this decline was because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took action to clamp down on the use of e-cigs, particularly among teens. This meant specifically addressing the flavored tobacco products that were most popular among the younger demographic. This led to the FDA’s order to companies to take these enticing flavored products off the market in January 2020. The Trump administration also effectively banned flavored e-cigarettes at this time. In addition, the FDA also accused one of the more popular e-cigarette manufacturers, Juul, for marketing their products intentionally to teens. Juul took its flavored line of tobacco products off the market in October 2019.
Following this ban, there was a major loophole that was found and has been the latest trend in this sector. The ban was written for devices that are sold with cartridges that are replaceable, but it did not prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes that are disposable.
These products are still quite easy to purchase, as many are available at gas stations, drug stores, or specialty smoke shops. This is a sector that has been booming with the rise of e-cigs and marijuana over the past decade.
This has led to the ability for the same teenagers to still be able to smoke flavored e-cigs, this time in a disposable format. Another survey shows 83 percent of high schoolers who smoke these e-cigs are smoking the ones that are flavored. This is because these users are smoking with the help of cartridges or pods that are pre-filled. These pods and cartridges are put into a vaporizer that is refillable, while disposable vapes are also becoming quite popular. These disposable vapes have seen a 1,000 percent increase in usage from high school students between 2020 and 2019.
In fact, 26.5 percent of e-cigarette users in high school maintained they had smoked with a disposable product in the last month, a huge rise from the paltry 2.4 percent figure a year before. Furthermore, 80% of these young vapers were using mint or fruit flavored varieties.
Many anti-tobacco lobbyists now use these statistics to advocate to both the FDA and the government that they need to take further action to curb the use of e-cigarettes among teens. The current ban merely created a loophole that still leads to teens smoking flavored products. The good news for anti-tobacco lobbyists is that usage may have peaked and is on a downward trend.
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