A woman exhales while vaping from a Juul pen e-cigarette...

A woman exhales while vaping from a Juul pen e-cigarette in Vancouver, Wash., in 2019.  Credit: AP/Craig Mitchelldyer

More than 2.5 million middle and high school students nationwide reported using addictive e-cigarette products during the past 30 days, according to a new survey by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While teenage use of vaping products appears to be on the decline, both nationally and in New York State, it's unclear whether the dip is a long-term trend or a short-term blip based on recent changes in law and the lingering effects of the pandemic, officials said.

The study, conducted Jan. 18 through May 31 among U.S. students grades 6-12, found that 14.1% of high schoolers and 3.3% of middle schoolers reported using e-cigarettes during the previous 30 days. 

“This study shows that our nation’s youth continue to be enticed and hooked by an expanding variety of e-cigarette brands delivering flavored nicotine,” said Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “Our work is far from over. It’s critical that we work together to prevent youth from starting to use any tobacco product — including e-cigarettes — and help all youth who do use them, to quit.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • More than 2.5 million middle and high school students nationwide reported using addictive e-cigarette products during the past 30 days, according to a new survey.
  • Teenage use of vaping products appears to be on the decline, both nationally and in New York State, though it's unclear whether it's a long-term trend or a short-term blip.
  • 14.1% of high schoolers and 3.3% of middle schoolers reported using e-cigarettes during the previous 30 days. 

Nearly 85% of those surveyed used flavored e-cigarettes — predominantly fruit or candy and desert flavored vapes — and more than half used disposable cartridges, according to the report, which was published in the Morbidity and Mortality weekly report and based on data from the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Dr. Rachel Boykan, a pediatrician and professor of clinical pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, said the frequency of the e-cigarette use among teens is especially concerning. The report found that among current e-cigarette users more than 27.6% of youth surveyed used the products daily and 42.3% used them on 20 or more of the past 30 days.

"More of the kids who are using them are using them really regularly, which speaks to addiction and that's a big concern," Boykan said.

New York State restricted flavored e-cigarettes in 2020 although the law does not include vape products such as menthol, mint or wintergreen. The legal age to vape and smoke was raised to 21 nationwide in 2019.

Dr. Eugene Vortsman, clinical director of addiction medicine and disease management at Northwell Health, said it remains incredibly easy for teens to purchase flavored vape products, both online and at stores that fail to follow the law.

"I spent literally one minute doing a search how to buy vapes online without ID and there's thousands of links and thousands of opportunities for people to get access without any parental supervision," Vortsman said. 

Nonetheless, Vortsman said a full-scale prohibition of all vaping products will only further build an underground market for teens. He said regulators should focus on ensuring that e-cigarettes are not "being targeted toward children and not showing it as a … cool thing to do. And really show the potential of severe lung disease that can happen from all types of inhaled products."

A 2021 New York State Department of Health survey found that 22.5% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the past month, down from 27.5% in 2018.

“The state's strong and effective laws and regulations — and the department’s ongoing, comprehensive programming — help safeguard adolescents from the harms of tobacco, including vaping products, the marketing of such products, and deadly nicotine addiction," the department, which contributed data to the CDC/FDA report, said in a statement.

Nationally, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes is down from 2019 and 2020, when 5.4 million and 3.6 million youth, respectively, reported using vape products, but up slightly from 2021 when the number was just over 2 million, according to the CDC.

The agency, however, said changes in how the survey is administered, in part due to the pandemic when some students took classes from home, makes it difficult to compare this year's numbers to previous reports.

Vaping involves inhaling the addictive tobacco substance nicotine and other chemicals that are heated in e-cigarettes. Vape liquids can also contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes a high.

Nicotine and THC can impair brain development in kids and young adults, experts said, and some of the chemicals used in vaping can cause cancer and other health problems.

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