E-cigarettes use by young people has increased significantly and steadily since 2011. The US Surgeon General declared e-cigarettes a school age epidemic in 2016. Despite this alert, e-cigarette use continued to increase from 2017-2019. But the recently released 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey provides a glimmer of hope that we may be making progress.
28 % of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students reported that they had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days in 2019. The most recent survey, completed between January 1 and March 15, 2020, found that 20% of high school students and 5% of middle school students reported current e-cigarette, a seemingly small, but very significant drop. It may be that comprehensive evidence based strategies are beginning to work.
The FDA has measures in place to reduce access and marketing of e-cigarettes to people under 18. These efforts may be having an effect. Now is the time to expand enforcement and increase prevention. Young people are most likely to use pre-filled pods that have fruit flavors or menthol. Most of these devices deliver very high doses of nicotine while attracting middle school students with the flavor – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Flavored and mint e-pods that appeal to children are illegal to manufacture. The FDA needs to beef up enforcement so that the progress in preventing addiction among young people continues.