Vaping in US teens drops in 2020 after crackdown, but disposable e-cigarettes are getting popular: CDC
E-cigarette use among high and middle school students in 2020 has dropped by roughly two million compared to last year, a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found. The decline follows a ban on some flavored vaping products.
In 2020, one in five high schoolers (about 20%) reportedly used e-cigarettes, a drop from 27.5% in 2019. As for middle school students, it declined 4.7% this year from 10.5% in 2019. Though these figures are encouraging, there is still a problem: the growing popularity of disposable e-cigarettes, which are still being sold in flavors. Since 2019, their use has increased by 1,000% among high school students and 400% among middle school students.
“Although the decline in e-cigarette use among our Nation’s youth is a notable public health achievement, our work is far from over,” Dr CDC Director Robert R Redfield, said in a statement. “Youth e-cigarette use remains an epidemic, and CDC is committed to supporting efforts to protect youth from this preventable health risk," he added.
The CDC said e-cigarettes are unsafe as most contain nicotine, a highly addictive compound that can harm the developing brain. In 2019, an outbreak of vaping associated lung disease (EVALI) emerged. It sent over 2,800 people to the hospital and killed at least 68, as of February 2020.
Since the entry of e-cigarettes into the US markets in 2007, businesses have expanded their products to include prefilled cartridge-based and disposable products, and flavored e-liquids such as fruit, candy, mint, menthol, and tobacco flavor, the CDC wrote in its report. The flavors are designed to make vaping products more appealing to the youth, they added.
About 3.6 million American youths used e-cigarettes, and more than eight in 10 reported using flavored e-cigarettes this year. The sales of e-cigarettes have grown immensely, becoming the most sought after tobacco product among young Americans.
During September 2014–May 2020, e-cigarette sales shot up by 122.2%. The sales of prefilled cartridge products rose from 47.5% to 89.4% between September 2014 and August 2019, according to the CDC. Then, the popularity of disposable products picked up: from 10.3% in August 2019, it increased to 19.8% in May 2020. At the same time, the proportion of prefilled cartridge products sold sank to about 80%.
Early this year, the Trump administration banned flavored e-cigarettes in refillable cartridge-based e-cigarettes, barring menthol, and tobacco. They, however, allowed the sale of disposable versions of the product. “The decline is good news, but it is really a historic opportunity missed,” Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told The New York Times. He added more significant changes could have happened if they had banned all flavored products.
The CDC said continued monitoring of e-cigarette sales and use is critical to inform measures to minimize the risks of e-cigarettes. "As part of a comprehensive approach to prevent and reduce youth e-cigarettes use, such strategies could include those that address youth-appealing product innovations and flavors," they wrote.