A Mixed Bag: Youth Smoking Dips as Vaping Rises

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A Mixed Bag: Youth Smoking Dips as Vaping Rises

12/18/2017
A teenager holding a cigarette

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A new study by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that the use of cigarette and other tobacco products (OTP) is on the decline among youth. However, more are reporting getting nicotine from vaping.

Cigarette smoking by teens continued to decline in 2017, according to The 2017 Monitoring the Future survey. For eighth, 10th and 12th grades combined, all measures — lifetime, 30-day, daily, and half-pack/day — are at historic lows since first measured in all three grades in 1991.

Since the peak levels reached in the mid-1990s, lifetime prevalence has fallen by 71 percent, 30-day prevalence by 81 percent, daily prevalence by 86 percent, and current half-pack-a-day prevalence by 91 percent, the study found.

"The health implications of these dramatic declines in smoking are enormous for this generation of young people," said Lloyd Johnston, the previous director of the study. "Long-term increases in perceived risk and personal disapproval of smoking have accompanied these changes, as has a long-term drop in the perceived availability of cigarettes to these age groups."

As for OTP:

  • Smokeless tobacco also showed a continuing decline this year with 30-day prevalence reaching a low point for the three grades individually and combined. It has fallen for the grades combined from 9.7 percent in 1992 to 3.5 percent in 2017.
  • Snus showed a decline in use this year for the three grades combined; annual prevalence fell from 3.6 percent to 2.6 percent.
  • Use of a hookah pipe to smoke tobacco had been increasing earlier in the decade and reached a substantial proportion of the age group, but annual prevalence has fallen by more than half since 2014, from 23 percent to 10 percent in 2017 for the three grades combined.
  • Use of both flavored little cigars and regular little cigars is down modestly since first being measured in all three grades in 2014, but did not continue to decline this year. Thirty-day prevalence is at 5.4 percent for flavored and 3.7 percent for regular little cigars.

The 2017 survey also reported the first-ever national, standard estimates of nicotine vaping, marijuana vaping, flavoring-only vaping, and any vaping. Previously, no national study has published estimates for vaping of specific substances for the standard time periods of past 30 days, past year, and lifetime.

Notably, 19 percent of 12th grade students reported vaping nicotine in the past year. The annual prevalence levels were 16 percent and 8 percent for 10th and 8th grade students, respectively. It is also possible that additional students are getting nicotine in what they vape but are not aware of it, so these are lower bound estimates, the study added.

In addition, one in 10 12th grade students vaped marijuana in the past year, and levels were 8 percent and 3 percent for 10th and 8th grade students, respectively.

"These findings emphasize that vaping has progressed well beyond a cigarette alternative," said Richard Miech, principal investigator of the study. "Vaping has become a new delivery device for a number of substances, and this number will likely increase in the years to come."

Approximately 45,000 students in 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in this U.S. national study. To read more on the 2017 study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, click here.

"These findings underscore the need to prevent youth use of all tobacco products and stop a new generation of products from undermining the great strides our nation has made," said Bill Lee, executive vice president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"The Food and Drug Administration should fully implement its new rule for e-cigarettes and cigars without delay, and Congress must reject pending proposals, contained in a House appropriations bill, to weaken FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and cigars," he added.

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