Teen Vaping Has Doubled Since 2017

By Lindsey Weedston 09/23/19

The dramatic increase, along with with recent reports of vaping-related lung disease and deaths, has led the NIDA to declare a public health crisis.

close up of teen girl vaping
Parents should begin paying close attention to these devices Pexels / Thorn Yang

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) put out a news release on Wednesday announcing preliminary data on teen use of e-cigarettes or “vape pens.” The preliminary data found that e-cigarette use has more than doubled since 2017.

The 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey looked at vaping rates from American 10th and 12th graders and found that this year, one in four 12th graders and one in five 10th graders had vaped in the past month.

These numbers represent an alarming jump from 2017, in which 11% of 12th graders and 8% of 10th graders reported vaping within the past 30 days. The 2019 data was also the first year to measure the prevalence of daily use, finding that 11.7% of 12th graders and 6.9% of 10th graders report vaping every day.

Numbers are also up among 8th graders, 9% of whom reported vaping within the past 30 days in 2019—up from 3.5% in 2017.

A Public Health Crisis

The dramatic increase, along with with recent reports of vaping-related lung disease and deaths, has led NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow to declare a public health crisis.

“With 25% of 12th graders, 20% of 10th graders and 9% of eighth graders now vaping nicotine within the past month, the use of these devices has become a public health crisis,” said Volkow. “These products introduce the highly addictive chemical nicotine to these young people and their developing brains, and I fear we are only beginning to learn the possible health risks and outcomes for youth.”

E-Cigarette Sellers Targeting Teens

Sellers of e-cigarettes, especially those that include flavoring and come in colorful packaging, have been accused of attempting to attract underage customers.

Regardless of intent, multiple studies have made it clear that underage nicotine use is up largely in connection with flavored vape products. Some teens have reported that they accidentally consumed nicotine by using these products while assuming that they were nicotine-free, only smoking them for the flavoring.

“Parents with school-aged children should begin paying close attention to these devices, which can look like simple flash drives, and frequently come in flavors that are appealing to youth,” said University of Michigan lead researcher Dr. Richard Miech. “National leaders can assist parents by stepping up and implementing policies and programs to prevent use of these products by teens.”

The full findings from the 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey will be released in December.

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at NotSorryFeminism.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyWeedston