More than 2.5 million adolescents are current e-cigarette users in 2022, with the majority choosing flavored, disposable products, according to a government study released Thursday that officials said showed youth vaping remains a serious public health problem.
The findings, from the National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show more than 14 percent of high-schoolers and 3.3 percent of middle-schoolers are current users, defined as those who used e-cigarettes at least one day in the past month. The data was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. E Cigarette Batteries
CDC officials cautioned against comparing the results of the 2022 survey with those of recent years because of changes in data collection procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, the study estimated there were 2.06 million current e-cigarette users — 11.3 percent of students in high school and 2.8 percent of students in middle school. Youth vaping peaked in 2019, with 5.4 million middle and high school students reporting use of e-cigarettes.
Anti-tobacco advocates were unhappy about the news. Even if the report is not exactly comparable to previous ones, “it’s clear we are going in the wrong direction with millions of kids vaping and more products than ever on the market,” said Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy for the American Lung Association. “We are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Sward and other vaping critics called on the FDA to ban all flavored e-cigarettes immediately and to step up enforcement against products that are on the market illegally.
The new report showed that 85 percent of e-cigarette users chose flavored vapes, with fruit flavors being the overwhelming favorite, followed by candy, mint and menthol versions. More than half used disposable vapes.
When asked their “usual brand,” the respondents named the disposable vape Puff Bar, followed by Vuse, Hyde and SMOK. Juul was not among the favorite brands.
Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, a nonprofit tobacco control organization, said the results — consistent with the group’s own data — were disheartening.
“What we are seeing is rates of young people vaping were very high before the pandemic, then took a dip during the lockdowns and now we see those rates creeping up again,” Koval said.
Linda Neff, chief of the epidemiology branch of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said the numbers “confirm that the e-cigarette epidemic in this country is far from over, our work is far from done.” She added the new figures show that young people are trying different brands of flavored products, risking a lifetime of addiction to nicotine.
The report showed that 1 in 4 e-cigarette users reported vaping daily and more than 4 in 10 said they vaped at least 20 of the past 30 days.
“This is powerful evidence that kids aren’t just experimenting with e-cigarettes, but becoming addicted to the high-nicotine products now dominating the market,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The report comes as the FDA faces intensifying criticism about its handling of e-cigarette products, which are required to receive agency authorization to stay on the market. The agency has reviewed millions of applications, and denied most of them, but critics say the process has been too slow and that enforcement is lax against companies that flout the rules.
The FDA, in a statement Thursday, said it issued a warning letter to Puff Bar for selling e-cigarettes in the United States without marketing authorization from the FDA. The company, which has 15 days to respond, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The agency also said it denied marketing applications for 32 Hyde e-cigarettes. It said there was not sufficient evidence the products would provide a benefit to adult users that would outweigh the risks to youth.
Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a recent interview that the agency has made decisions on most applications for e-cigarettes, but that it will take until next year to finish up — a timeline that recently drew fire from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).
“The FDA has sweeping legal authority — granted to it by Congress — to crack down on e-cigarette companies that ignore denial orders, including the ability to impose seven-figure fines and physically remove products from the market,” Durbin said in a letter to the agency.
In a statement Thursday, King said the FDA “is actively working to identify violations and to swiftly seek corrective actions, particularly for products popular among youth.”
In June, the agency ordered Juul, which has been accused of igniting the youth vaping trend in 2016, to take its products off the market in the summer. But it froze the order when Juul challenged the agency in court.
Amid the controversies, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf asked for an outside review of the tobacco center.
For the vaping survey, middle and high school students took the self-administered questionnaires between January and May. The survey assessed current e-cigarette use, and the devices, flavors and brands used.
Black Disposable Vape Advocates acknowledged that some progress has been made against youth vaping. In 2019, the report showed 27.5 percent of high-schoolers and 10.5 percent of middle-schoolers were current users.‘