An increasing number of high school students are using e-cigarettes, CDC data shows. Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Nearly one-third of all American high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That figure is more than twice that of 2017, the last time the agency assessed vaping among teens, when 13% reported using these tobacco products, the data showed.
Roughly 37% of high school students surveyed identified as "current users" of tobacco products in 2019, up from 20% in 2017, while 8.2% acknowledged using two or more tobacco products last year, the CDC said.
"These data show that e-cigarette companies, many of which are owned by major tobacco companies, have successfully used 'Big Tobacco's' playbook to hook another generation of America's kids," Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.
"Flavors are known to lure and hook kids to a lifetime of tobacco addiction, and we see this reflected in the continued spike of the amount of youth vaping," he said.
Research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2019 found that high school students who used e-cigarettes preferred the mint- and fruit-flavored tobacco products sold by some manufacturers.
The rise in e-cigarette among teens documented by the CDC has occurred even as more than 2,500 young people were diagnosed with a condition called e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, or EVALI, in the second half of last year, with one victim undergoing a double lung transplant as a result.
More recently, vaping has been linked with an increased risk for COVID-19, according to researchers,
The latest CDC findings are based on responses to the 2019 Youth Behavior Survey, which polled more than 12,000 students in grades 9 through 12 on a variety of issues ranging from mental health to alcohol and illegal drug use.
Just over 50% of those surveyed said they had used e-cigarettes at least once and 24% reported that they had tried smoking at least once, the data showed.
Thirty-three percent identified as "current electronic vaping product users," while 6% smoked traditional cigarettes or cigars, down from just under 30% in the 1990s, according to the CDC.
Current smokeless tobacco use among teens surveyed was just under 4%, a drop from 6% in 2017. Of those who currently vape, 33% described themselves as "frequent" users, the data showed.
High school students have gravitated toward e-cigarettes despite the fact that they -- like most tobacco products -- cannot be legally sold to children 18 years old and younger.
"Use of any tobacco product among youth is unsafe, regardless of frequency of use or number of products used," the CDC researchers wrote.
"Tobacco product usage has evolved, and the increasing prevalence of electronic vapor product use among youths during recent years is concerning."