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.
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 get 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.
“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 1 in 5 12th-graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, and nearly 1 in 6 10th-graders reported the same, according to the study as cited in the Los Angeles Times.
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.
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.
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