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Report: Vaping Up, Smoking Down Among Teens

A survey published as a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine shows vaping – using e-cigarettes – has more than doubled among teens in the past 2 years. The survey shows 25% of high school seniors, 20% of sophomores, and 9% of eighth graders reported vaping within the past 30 days. Overall, 44,482 students from 392 public and private schools participated in this year's Monitoring the Future survey, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The news comes as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration investigate hundreds of cases of severe lung illness linked to vaping that have led to deaths in several instances. Last week, the FDA announced it is also working toward banning all non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol.

The American Cancer Society strongly recommends that children, teens, and young adults never begin using e-cigarettes or start vaping in any form. The aerosol (vapor) from an e-cigarette can contain substances that are addictive and can cause lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is very addictive and can harm the brain development of teenagers.

Jeffrey Drope, American Cancer Society Scientific Vice President, Economic and Health Policy Research, says, “There’s an easy solution to this public health problem: strongly discourage youth from starting to use e-cigarettes. Governments that strongly regulate e-cigarettes are not facing the same problems with youth starting to vape.”

The same survey shows that the rate of teens smoking regular – “combustible” – tobacco cigarettes is at close to the lowest levels in the history of the survey, which began measuring drug and alcohol use among students in 1975.  Fewer students than ever report having smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. Among high school seniors, the 30-day cigarette smoking prevalence was 5.7% in 2019, down from 7.6% in 2018. The rate among sophomores (3.4% in 2019) and eighth graders (2.3% in 2019) did not significantly change.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Trends in Adolescent Vaping, 2017-2019. Published September 17, 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine. First author Richard Miech, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Mich.