The Vaping Industry Is Booming Thanks To New Clientele: High School Students

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

An annual survey of teenagers’ nicotine habits shows that more than 1.3 million high schoolers started using tobacco between 2017 and 2018 in a shift researchers attributed “solely” to vaping.

The researchers behind the yearly Monitoring the Future study shared their findings in a letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine Monday.

“This increase was driven solely by nicotine vaping, given that the use of each of the other six nicotine products declined (although not significantly),” they wrote.

The numbers echoed similar findings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November. More than 3.6 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users in 2018, a “dramatic” uptick that ended years of decline in overall youth tobacco use, according to data the FDA released Nov. 15. (RELATED: Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander Is Leaving The Senate After 2020)

The FDA released the e-cigarette portion of its National Youth Tobacco Survey early as it cracks down on tobacco companies like Juul Labs, which the agency accuses of pushing flavored products that appeal to teens and getting them hooked on nicotine.

Other alarming data from the Monitoring the Future study showed that vaping jumped in popularity by historic amounts among certain high school age groups.

E-Liquids, which are used for vaping in electronic cigarettes, are offered for sale at the Smoke Depot on September 13, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

E-Liquids, which are used for vaping in electronic cigarettes, are offered for sale at the Smoke Depot on September 13, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A woman holds a Juul e-cigarette in this posed picture, near Jerusalem September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A woman holds a Juul e-cigarette in this posed picture, near Jerusalem September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

“Put in historical context, the absolute increases in the prevalence of nicotine vaping among 12th-graders and 10th-graders are the largest ever recorded by Monitoring the Future in the 44 years that it has continuously tracked dozens of substances,” the researchers wrote.

More than one-in-five 12th graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, and nearly one-in-six 10th-graders reported the same, according to the study as cited in the Los Angeles Times. (RELATED: Did Juul Build Its E-Cigarette Empire By Marketing To Teens?)

Vaping is now “the most common use of any tobacco-like product among adolescents” even though the number of teens vaping was virtually zero percent as recently as 2011, the researchers wrote. Vaping replaced smoking as the most common way for teens to consume tobacco in 2014 according to the Monitoring the Future study, reported the LA Times.

Nearly 8 percent of high school students reported in 2017 that they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, a marked decrease from 15.8 percent in 2011, according to CDC data.

At least 20 other studies on the effects of teen vaping show that teens who vape are about five times more likely to start smoking cigarettes than teens who do not vape, study leader Richard Miech told to the LA Times.

The Monitoring the Future study looked at a nationally representative sample of 13,850 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades, according to the LA Times.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called teen vaping an “epidemic” in a November press release.

Juul issued the following statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday:

JUUL Labs is committed to preventing youth from initiating on nicotine. As we said before, our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products. But intent is not enough, we must act to solve this problem which is why we are implementing the JUUL Labs Action Plan to address underage use of JUUL products. We stopped the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to retail stores as of Nov. 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our Web site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts and are developing new technology to further limit youth access. We are committed to working with FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort.

Philip Morris International, a tobacco company that is separate from Philip Morris USA and does not sell yet sell nicotine products in the U.S., issued the following statement to TheDCNF Tuesday:

Former smokers and never smokers should not return to, or pick up, the tobacco or nicotine habit. The focus must be on providing better choices to those of the 40 million American men and women who smoke today.

Flavored e-cigarette liquids have been named as a factor in driving youth interest in e-cigarettes. Youth should not use any tobacco or other nicotine containing products. That is beyond dispute. At the same time, public policy in the U.S. recognizes the role that new tobacco and other nicotine containing products can play in helping move adult smokers away from cigarettes. It is absolutely necessary to achieve a balance between these two objectives in order to realize a true public health breakthrough.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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