The number of young Americans consuming electronic cigarettes increased by 1.5 million in 2018, which offset years of reduced smoking in secondary schools and colleges, health authorities said on Monday.
Some 3.6 million students were vaping in 2018, compared to 2.1 million the previous year (+ 78% in secondary and + 48% in college), while the number of cigarette smokers and other tobacco products remained stable, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In total, 4.9 million young people used to smoke, smoke or consume a tobacco product in 2018, compared to 3.6 million in 2017, according to a definition that includes having consumed one of these products in the month preceding the questionnaire completed by the students. . All this increase is attributed to the electronic cigarette.
More than one in four students (27%) smoke, vapote or consume a tobacco product (cigar, pipe, shisha, snuff …).
“The skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes last year threatens to erase the gains made in reducing youth smoking,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield . “A new generation is at risk of developing nicotine addiction.”
Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine and other products, but not the substances found in traditional cigarettes known to be carcinogens. Their long-term effect on health is under study. Government experts say that no matter what happens, nicotine can have harmful effects on adolescent brain development.
Manufacturers argue that for adults already smokers and already addicted to nicotine, vaping brings a net health benefit.
But the health authorities fear that vaping will initiate new generations to nicotine, especially young people, thanks to flavored flavored refills such as strawberry or balloon gum.
The authorities are attacking the American market leader, Juul, who was blamed in the report and accused of being lax about young people. The start-up company is valued at 38 billion US dollars since the investment of 13 billion Altria, the maker of Marlboro, in December.
“All options are on the table in terms of policy,” warned Mitch Zeller, director of tobacco products at the FDA, the federal agency that regulates electronic cigarettes since 2016 and has already announced proposed restrictions in November, especially against scented refills.
Juul then voluntarily announced the withdrawal of some tastes from the shelves of its distributors, but the regulator is dissatisfied with the progress.
In the United States, the authorities include vaping in tobacco use, nicotine from tobacco, but other countries do not categorize it as a tobacco product.
Since the 1990s, the decline in youth smoking has been ongoing, said Brian King, who heads the CDC. Even vaping had dropped after a peak in 2015.
But it went up again last year, at a time that corresponds to the explosion of Juul and its ergonomic design on the market.
“This is the biggest annual increase we have ever seen for a tobacco product [since the 1990s],” said Brian King during a conference call.
In total, the number of vapers rose from 1.5 to 20.8% among high school students from 2011 to 2018, while “fuel” tobacco, in all its forms, fell from 21.87% to 13, 9%. About 5% of college students said vape last year.
Reinforcing the idea that vaping is a gateway to tobacco, the statistics reveal that many young people who vape also consume traditional tobacco. A third also vaped cannabis.