The CDC and FDA are worried decades worth of work in reducing youth tobacco use has been erased by e-cigarettes.
About 4.9 million middle and high school students used some type of tobacco product in 2018, according to the CDC. The CDC believes the rise in teen tobacco use is driven by e-cigarettes.
The number of U.S. high school students using e-cigarettes went up 78% between 2017 and 2018, according to the FDA. There are now 3.05 million high school students using e-cigarettes, a 78% increase from 2017. In middle schools there are 570,000 students using e-cigarettes, or 4.9% of middle-school students.
Officials are worried about the effect e-cigarettes will have on the nation’s health.
“These new data show that America faces an epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, which threatens to engulf a new generation in nicotine addiction,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The CDC and FDA believe the rise in e-cigarette use is tied to the trendiness of things like Juul and flavored vapes. Many e-cigarettes are slim, discreet, and come in flavors like mango and mint. Juuls and other e-cigarettes get plenty of free marketing from social media. One Juul pod has the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, according to Fortune magazine.
When teenagers use nicotine they might become addicted early in life, according to the FDA. The young developing brain doesn’t handle nicotine and other chemicals. Additionally, teens who start smoking with e-cigarettes are more likely to transition to regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are useful for helping cigarette smokers slowly wean themselves off of nicotine. Officials are trying to figure out how to keep nicotine products out of teenager’s hands while still keeping e-cigarettes available to the general market. The CDC says strategies to reduce youth tobacco use include prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, starting a hard-hitting media campaign against tobacco, or increasing the prices of tobacco products.