Re­ports: Teens va­p­ing more, drink­ing al­co­hol less

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY LAURA KELLY

The teen va­p­ing epi­demic is in­creas­ing while the use of al­co­hol, mar­i­juana and other drugs among ado­les­cents is de­clin­ing or hold­ing steady, ac­cord­ing to new fed­eral statis­tics.

In the past year, al­most 38 per­cent of 12thgrader­s re­ported va­p­ing — us­ing elec­tronic cig­a­rette de­vices that va­por­ize a liq­uid typ­i­cally mixed with fla­vored nico­tine.

This rep­re­sents an in­crease of more 10 per­cent since 2017, ac­cord­ing to the Mon­i­tor­ing the Fu­ture Sur­vey, an an­nual study that asks a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their smok­ing, drink­ing and drug use over the past 12 months.

Re­searchers found that more than 20 per­cent of 12th-graders said they had vaped in the month be­fore the sur­vey, an in­crease from 11 per­cent just one year prior.

“Va­p­ing is cer­tainly the most star­tling in­for­ma­tion out of this sur­vey, show­ing a sur­pris­ing in­crease over a sin­gle year pe­riod,” said Dr. Wil­son Comp­ton, deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse, part of the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health.

Health of­fi­cials are alarmed over the con­tin­ued pop­u­lar­ity of va­p­ing, sec­ond only to al­co­hol for dan­ger­ous teen be­hav­ior, and its in­creas­ing use among stu­dents in mid­dle school.

Al­most 18 per­cent of eighth-graders and 32 per­cent of 10th-graders re­ported past-year va­p­ing, in­creas­ing from 13 per­cent and 24 per­cent in 2017, re­spec­tively.

“These prod­ucts didn’t ex­ist un­til very re­cently, and the num­bers of kids re­port­ing va­p­ing is ex­cep­tional and has cer­tainly reached the high­est lev­els, higher than even an­tic­i­pated, that’s for sure,” Dr. Comp­ton said.

This is com­pared to huge de­clines in tra­di­tional smok­ing, with be­tween 1 and 3 per­cent of teenagers re­port­ing any use of cig­a­rettes, hookahs, smoke­less to­bacco or cigars.

Teen va­p­ing ex­ploded in 2015 and reached a peak of 16 per­cent with the first in­tro­duc­tion of e-cig­a­rette and va­p­ing de­vices. Pub­lic ser­vice cam­paigns and stricter reg­u­la­tions helped de­crease that level to 11.3 per­cent in 2016, ac­cord­ing to data from the Na­tional Youth To­bacco Sur­vey.

But those trends quickly re­versed when Juul — a sleek, USB-size elec­tronic cig­a­rette — came on the mar­ket in 2017. It ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially among teenagers, who used the de­vices while in class or school bath­rooms, in cars and at par­ties — record­ing them­selves and up­load­ing the videos on so­cial me­dia.

Be­tween 2017 and 2018, data from the Na­tional Youth To­bacco sur­vey — a sep­a­rate study by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion — saw a 78 per­cent in­crease in e-cig­a­rette use among teenagers, with a 48 per­cent in­crease among mid­dle school stu­dents.

This rep­re­sents about 3.6 mil­lion teenagers in to­tal.

“These data shock my con­science,” FDA Com­mis­sioner Dr. Scott Got­tlieb said in a state­ment in Novem­ber with the re­lease of the re­port.

Ob­serv­ing the rapid in­crease, fed­eral health of­fi­cials took Juul and sim­i­lar va­p­ing com­pa­nies to task. They cited more than 1,300 brick-and-mor­tar stores for sell­ing de­vices to un­der­age kids, banned pop­u­lar fla­vors that ap­peal to teens from be­ing sold in stores and is­sued warn­ings over so­cial me­dia cam­paigns.

“These in­creases must stop,” Dr. Got­tlieb said. “And the bot­tom line is this: I will not al­low a gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren to be­come ad­dicted to nico­tine through e-cig­a­rettes.”

Other than that, to­day’s teenagers are trend­ing in a re­mark­ably re­spon­si­ble di­rec­tion, with to­bacco, il­licit drug use and al­co­hol at some of their low­est lev­els.

“In­deed, there is very pos­i­tive news when it comes to opi­oids for teens, when it comes to al­co­hol over the long term,” Dr. Comp­ton said, adding that the num­ber of kids con­tin­u­ing to smoke, drink and do drugs is still too high for his con­science.

“If [the num­bers] hadn’t shown an im­prove­ment and they were just these rates, we’d be con­cerned,” he said. “But the fact that they’re trend­ing in the right di­rec­tion is re­ally good news.”

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