January 15, 2019
One in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2018, according to data from the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey.
These statistics signal an alarming increase in youth use of e-cigarettes. Between 2011 and 2018, the percentage of high school students reporting e-cigarette use increased from 1.5% to 20.8%. In this age group, the use of e-cigarettes increased 78% (11.7% to 20.8%) between 2017 and 2018 alone. Frequent use of e-cigarettes (more than 20 days in the past month) among high school students also increased between 2017 and 2018 from 20% to 27.7%. More than two-thirds of these individuals reported using flavored e-cigarettes. Similar trends were seen among middle schoolers with use of e-cigarettes growing from 0.6% in 2011 to 4.9% 2018. There was a 48% increase in use between 2017 and 2018 in this younger age group but no change in frequent use.
The report’s authors attribute the rapid increase in use over the past year to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes shaped like USB flash drives. These products have very high nicotine content, come in many flavors, and can be “used discreetly,” the authors noted. In September 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration issued more than 1300 warning letters and fines to retailers for illegally selling e-cigarettes to minors.
While e-cigarettes may benefit adult smokers when used as a substitute for traditional cigarettes, the authors caution that use among minors is unsafe.
“There are no redeeming benefits of e-cigarettes for young people,” said Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health in a press release. “The use of certain USB-shaped e-cigarettes is especially dangerous among youth because these products contain extremely high levels of nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain.”