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E-cigarettes drive overall youth tobacco use to highest rate in nearly two decades

Youth are using tobacco at rates unseen in almost two decades due to the epidemic increase in e-cigarette use.

New data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that 31.2% of high school students and 12.5% of middle school students — a total of 6.2 million young people — are using some type of tobacco product. This is the highest rate among high school students in 19 years.

E-cigarettes, such as JUUL and its many copycats, are overwhelmingly driving the increase. More than 1 in 4 (27.5%) high schoolers and 10.5% of middle schoolers reported current use of e-cigarettes, meaning they vaped at least once in the past 30 days. Many are using e-cigarettes much more frequently — 1.6 million middle and high school students reported that they vape at least 20 days a month, signaling a growing youth addiction crisis.

The new data also reveal that many young tobacco users want to quit. More than half — 57.8% — of students who currently use a tobacco product reported seriously thinking about quitting tobacco and nearly as many — 57.5% — reported trying to quit in the past year. These data underscore the urgent need for tools to help young people stop vaping, such as This is Quitting, the first-of-its kind e-cigarette quit program from Truth Initiative®. The program is tailored by age group to give teens and young adults appropriate recommendations about quitting and also serves as a resource for parents looking to help their children who now vape.

To enroll in This is Quitting, teens and young adults text DITCHJUUL to 88709. Parents can text QUIT to (202) 899-7550 to sign up to receive text messages designed specifically for parents of vapers.

Early nicotine use can harm brain development, alter nerve cell functioning and increase the risk of young people smoking cigarettes. The youth e-cigarette epidemic could have been prevented if the Food and Drug Administration had done its job of regulating e-cigarettes, instead of allowing them to stay on the market without undergoing a review of their public health impact. Truth Initiative continues to call on the FDA to fully regulate e-cigarettes and for the federal government to follow through on its plan to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey is an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention