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New data show nearly 800,000 teens vaped for the first time in the past year, as FDA is set to announce first major decision to remove a popular e-cigarette brand

Nearly 1.5 million young people, including 800,000 teens between 15 and 18 years old, used an e-cigarette for the first time in the months surrounding and following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s September deadline to review e-cigarettes, a missed deadline that has kept many flavored e-cigarettes on store shelves while they await FDA review.  

This new data from Truth Initiative® comes on the heels of an anticipated announcement from the FDA, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, that the agency plans to remove JUUL from the market, a move that marks the first major decision on a popular e-cigarette brand. The agency has yet to complete reviews from the largest companies with the most popular products that make up over 75% of the e-cigarette market, despite a court-ordered September 2021 deadline to do so.

Many e-cigarettes have been allowed to stay on the market for years without undergoing a review of their public health impact, sparking an epidemic of youth use. On September 9, 2021, the FDA finally faced a court-ordered deadline to review millions of premarket applications (known as PMTAs) from e-cigarette manufacturers to determine whether the products are “appropriate for the protection of public health.” The agency denied the applications of nearly a million flavored products, but more than 9 months after the FDA’s deadline, it has yet to act on many of the most popular products with young people.

Line up of a Vuse, JUUL, and Puff Bar

Vaping initiation remains widespread among youth and young adults

Truth Initiative data show that between July 2021 – just two months before the FDA’s September 2021 deadline to review applications – and June 2022, 797,698 teens between 15 and 18 years old (4.6%) tried their first e-cigarette. In this same time period, 356,891 (3.9%) 19- to 20-year-olds and 315,737 (1.9%) 21- to 24-year-olds vaped for the first time.

Researchers pulled data on 2,512 young people from the Truth Longitudinal Cohort, a probability-based, nationally representative, longitudinal sample of youth and young adults between 15 and 24. Young people were asked if they had ever used e-cigarettes between July 2021 to October 2021 and again between January 2022 to June 2022. Researchers calculated the percentage of young people who initiated vaping by age group, then multiplied the percentage by the total population at each age group, according to 2010-2019 United States census data. Results give an estimate of how many young people across the nation began vaping in the timeframe.

FDA must complete review of all e-cigarettes without further delay

Young people continue to use e-cigarettes at epidemic levels, with 19.6% of 12th graders, 13.1% of 10th graders and 7.6% of 8th graders using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days in 2021, according to the Monitoring the Future Study.  Data also shows that teens are not simply experimenting with e-cigarettes but are instead using them habitually. In 2021, more than a quarter (27.6%) of high school e-cigarette users and 8.3% of current middle school e-cigarette users reported vaping daily, according to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Recently, the FDA told a federal court that it won’t finish its review of marketing applications for the most popular e-cigarette products until June 2023 – nearly two years after the September 9, 2021, court-ordered deadline to do so. The FDA’s continued delays are unacceptable and harmful to our nation’s youth and public health. Every day the FDA fails to act, it allows tobacco companies to continue targeting and addicting youth with flavored, nicotine-loaded e-cigarettes. The FDA has the power and responsibility to end this public health crisis, but once again it is failing to do so. The FDA must prioritize decisions on flavored, youth-appealing e-cigarettes remaining on the market.