What’s behind the numbers: Flavor bans may have had an effect.
One thing is clear regarding the use of electronic cigarettes by minors: adolescents like flavors. About 90 percent of students who reported vaping reported using flavored products, citing fruit and candy-flavored favorites.
Teenagers identified Elf Bar and Esco Bar as their favorite brands, well known for flavors like strawberry, kiwi and watermelon ice cream.
Public health advocates in California recognized the appeal, leading to a years-long fight to pass a ban on flavored tobacco products, which took effect in December. This quickly led to a decline in sales, according to to the data of the CDC Foundation. From December 2022 to June of this year, sales of flavored e-cigarettes fell by almost 70%, to 179,000 from around 575,000 vapes or refills.
The ban has undoubtedly made it more difficult for young people to purchase vapes in California, where you must be 21 to purchase tobacco products.
Public health experts have also linked other flavor bans and education campaigns at the state and local level to the decline in high school vaping rates, which are the lowest in nearly a decade. And a few years ago, under public pressure, Juul, once the most popular brand, pulled most of its flavors from the market.
The survey was conducted in approximately 180 schools across the country and was released by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. It reported e-cigarette use over the past 30 days, but did not include any state-specific information.
In total, about 2.1 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes, up from 2.5 million last year. But surveys conducted over the past few years since the peak of the vaping crisis in 2019 have cautioned against making strict year-to-year comparisons due to pandemic conditions when students were at school. school and outside.
Why it matters: Studies identify the health risks of vaping for adolescents.
Federal officials who regulate e-cigarettes view their use as an aid to helping adult smokers quit traditional cigarettes, given the well-known cancer risks.
But the use of electronic cigarettes has become very popular among non-smokers. About 40 percent of people who use e-cigarettes are under the age of 25, many of whom started when Juul was first introduced. A majority of these young people have never smoked before vaping, according to the CDC
The health effects are now well known. A recent study from the University of Southern California noted the toxicity of chemicals in e-cigarettes and sent questionnaires to teens who vaped. The study found a significant increase in symptoms of wheezing, shortness of breath and bronchitis. And many experts have expressed concerns about the effects of nicotine addiction on adolescent brain development.
And next: a proposed ban on menthol and increased enforcement of illegal imports.
The FDA is moving toward a ban on menthol cigarettes and is advancing a proposal to significantly reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes. This has led traditional tobacco companies to embrace the sale of e-cigarettes as a way forward in the market to offset the overall decline in cigarette sales.
Yet these companies — along with many congressional lawmakers and anti-tobacco groups — say they are dismayed by what they see as lax enforcement by the FDA. While the agency has authorized the sale of about two dozen vaping products, thousands of candy-colored flavored illicit vapes have been sold. have flooded the country and are the most sold.
The FDA said it will continue its enforcement efforts, including banning the importation of Elf Bar and Esco Bar products and imposing fines on retailers who continue to sell them. The agency has sent warning letters to the manufacturers of these and other vapes.
Brian King, head of the FDA’s tobacco division, welcomed the results, but said, “We cannot rest on our laurels.” There is still work to be done to build on this progress.
Dr. Neff said his agency needs to better understand why there was a small but significant increase in the use of any tobacco product in colleges, to 6.6 percent this year compared to 4.5 percent last year. .
“Our work is far from done,” said Dr. Neff.
Other researchers noted that combined overall tobacco product use among middle and high school students barely declined, from 11 percent last year to 10 percent this year. “Overall, this doesn’t change overall tobacco use among young people,” said Karen Knudsen, executive director of the American Cancer Society. “And that’s concerning.”