The latest report on teen smoking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 20 percent of high school students have used at least one tobacco product recently - mostly e-cigarettes.
"Tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for youth", said Corinne Graffunder, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. There are in addition smoke-free zones and policies, restriction of access to tobacco by the youth and other similar measures that serve as deterrents to smoking. The CDC used data from a survey conducted in OR and found that 43.5 percent of eighth-grade students and 34.4 percent of 11th-grade students reported that e-cigarettes were the first tobacco product they used.
The number of high school students who smoked cigarettes in the 30 days prior to being surveyed fell to 8 percent from 9.3 percent in 2015, the data shows. In 2015, 4.7 million teens used tobacco products, but that number dropped to 3.9 million in 2016. These yearly surveys are given to middle and high school students in the US, who then voluntarily complete the printed questionnaire.
Adolescent cigarette smoking has been falling for many years, but the decline in e-cigarette and hookah use was more remarkable.
"However, on balance the bad news is that we've still got 4 million teenagers that are still using tobacco", he said.
Image: Cigarettes are seen in this illustration photo taken May 24, 2017.
After analysing the surveys, the researchers at the CDC concluded that the rate of rate of high-schoolers using e-cigarettes, along with hookahs and combustible tobacco products, dropped from the year 2015 50 2016.
While e-cigarettes are generally considered to be safer than cigarette smoking and are considered potential smoking cessation devices by some, King said they should not be considered safe for use by teens and younger children.
"I think it's clear that these products are not a fad, given the exponential increase in their use up until 2015", he said.
Tobacco prevention and control strategies from all levels of government likely contributed to the reduction in usage, the authors of the report said, but stressed that continued surveillance was needed to determine if the trend continues.
They also found that the vapour from non-nicotine e-cigs caused as much DNA damage as filtered cigarettes, possibly due to the chemical additives.
Myers went on to highlight the fact that as recently as 2000, around 30% of high school age teens in the United States stated that they smoked tobacco. He said the agency has issued more than 4,000 warning letters to brick-and-mortar retailers and online sellers for selling tobacco products to minors. Use of the products among high school students fell to 11.3% in the 2016 survey, but King told MedPage Today that it is too soon to say if the decline in youth e-cigarette use represents a trend. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and e-cigarettes, which are often sold on the Internet and come in attractive flavors, can be especially appealing to young people, she said.
So with a decrease after many years of increased e-cigarette use among young people, public health experts want to make sure the rates keep shrinking.