National Study Finds Record Increase in Electronic Cigarette Use Among Teens, Surgeon General Declares Epidemic

On Monday, findings from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, indicated a sharp increase in electronic cigarette use, or vaping, among U.S. teens over the past year. The study, conducted annually, surveys eighth, 10th, and 12th graders about their attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol and other drugs. Researchers found that the increase in nicotine vaping in 2018 was the largest annual jump in the use of any substance, including cannabis, in the study’s 44-year history.

37.3 percent of 12th graders indicated they vaped nicotine within the past year, compared to 27.8 percent in last year’s study. More frequent use of vaping, indicated by vaping within the past 30 days, among 12th graders approximately doubled this year, rising to 21 percent in 2018 from 11 percent in 2017. In total, researchers found that the rise in vaping amounted to approximately 1.3 million more teen users in 2018 compared to 2017.

In other substances, tobacco cigarettes remain at historic lows with 3.6 percent of 12th graders indicating they smoke daily; 20 years ago, 22 percent of 12th graders indicated they smoked daily. 5.8 percent of 12th graders indicating daily cannabis use in 2018, which has remained relatively stable over the past 20 years. The study also showed that teenagers were beginning to move away from other substance use such as alcohol and opioids with slightly decreasing rates compared to 2017.

Prompted by the most recent findings on vaping, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday declared electronic cigarette use among youth a national epidemic. Adams issued an advisory calling on local health departments to implement evidence-based population-level strategies to restrict e-cigarette use and access, advertising and marketing, and availability of flavored tobacco products. Adams’ advisory also outlines actions for health professionals, parents, and teachers to help curb the use of e-cigarettes among teens. Both Adams and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar expressed concern with the increase in e-cigarette use stating, “We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly. This is an unprecedented challenge.”

The 2018 Monitoring the Future study is available here. More information on Surgeon General Adams’ advisory and teen tobacco prevention is available here.