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December 17, 2018

Teen vaping surged within the last year, survey says

Huge increases come as FDA cracks down on e-cigarettes

The percentage of high school seniors who vape nicotine has surged by record amounts within the last year, according to an annual report released Monday by federally-funded researchers.

Twenty-one percent of high school seniors said they vaped nicotine within the past 30 days – nearly doubling last year's total of 11 percent. That marked the largest increase of adolescent substance use since the Monitoring the Future survey was first released 43 years ago.

RELATED STORY: FDA moves to ban menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars

The survey has tracked national substance use among high school seniors since 1975. Researchers also began tracking eighth and 10th grade students in 1991.

Significant vaping increases were not limited to high school seniors.

The amount of 10th grade students who vape nicotine doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent this year – a record amount for that age group. Among eighth graders, vaping increased from 3.5 percent to 6.1 percent – the second largest jump recorded for that grade.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared teenage vaping a health epidemic and announced a series of new restrictions designed to mitigate both vaping and tobacco use among teens.

The FDA limited e-cigarette sales to brick-and-mortar stores that do not permit access to people under 18. The new policy effectively banned convenience stores and gas stations from selling e-cigarettes, while also increasing age-verification requirements for online purchases.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health offers residents a free "Quitline" designed to help people quit smoking. Call 1-800-Quit-Now to speak with a clinically-trained counselor. The line is open at all times and all calls are confidential. Find more information here
  • The New Jersey Department of Health also offers a free "Quitline." Dial 1-866-NJSTOPS to speak with live coaches. More information is available here.
  • Several health organizations in the Philadelphia region offer smoking cessation programs, including Jefferson Health, Main Line HealthPenn Medicine and Temple Health.

The FDA also moved to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

Richard Miech, lead author of Monitoring the Future, hailed the FDA's new policies, saying previous actions to prevent youth vaping "clearly haven't worked."

"Because the vaping industry is quickly evolving, new additional, vaping-specific strategies may well be needed in the years ahead in order to keep vaping devices out of the hands of youth," Miech said in a statement.

The survey, which is conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also tracked teen use other substances.

The percentage of teens who vaped marijuana within the last 30 days increased among all three age groups. At 7.5 percent, high school seniors recorded the highest percentage, though 10th graders weren't far behind, at 7 percent. Only 2.6 percent of eighth grade students said they vaped marijuana, but that was up from 1.6 percent in 2017.

Misuse of prescription opioids dipped to 3.4 percent this year, well below its peak of 9.5 percent, recorded in 2004. Abuse of heroin remained stagnant. Such results indicate that the opioid epidemic is concentrated among adults, according to the survey's researchers.

Binge drinking – defined as having five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks – dropped to 14 percent among high school seniors, a 2.8 percent decline. Binge drinking peaked in 1997.

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