MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — E-cigarettes have obliterated past progress in reducing tobacco product use among teenagers, U.S. health officials said Monday.
About 4.9 million middle and high school students were current users of a tobacco product in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017, according to results from the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey.
All told, more than 1 in 4 high school students and about 1 in 14 middle school students used a tobacco product in 2018, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Researchers chalk this increase up entirely to e-cigarettes, noting that no significant change was found in the use in any other tobacco product — including traditional tobacco cigarettes.
“The skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use. It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement.
Kids who use e-cigarettes could be more likely to progress to smoking tobacco after becoming hooked on nicotine, according to previous research cited by the CDC.
The nicotine in e-cigarettes also pose other health hazards, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director.
“Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, including harmful effects on learning, memory and attention,” Schuchat said. Nicotine also primes the brain for addiction to other substances, she added.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the survey results “deeply troubling.”
“These results are strong evidence that e-cigarettes are not helping to drive down youth cigarette use,” Myers said. “Indeed, if anything, the evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes could increase the number of kids who smoke cigarettes.”
There were 1.5 million more young e-cigarette users in 2018 than 2017, and those who vaped did so more often, the CDC found.
E-cigarette use increased to nearly 21 percent among high schoolers and 5 percent among middle schoolers in 2018, up from about 12 percent and 3 percent in 2017, respectively.