High school students resumed taking the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey in school this year and 14% of them reported using e-cigarettes, underscoring how an upstart industry is dodging regulators’ efforts to spare a generation from nicotine addiction.
The number shows a slight change from 11% last year, but researchers cautioned against drawing comparisons to 2021’s survey, which was conducted differently because it took place when many schools were closed during the pandemic. The latest results were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.
Although the age-old force of peer pressure may still be encouraging use, the percentage of high school students who reported vaping in the past 30 days was still far lower than record-high levels reached in 2019 of nearly 28%.
Overall, the survey found that 2.5 million middle and high school students, or about 9%, used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. That puts their overall rate of use several times higher than that of adults, which is estimated at about 3%.
The survey, which was conducted from January through May of this year, showed that 85% of adolescent e-cigarette users favored vapes in fruit, dessert and candy flavors. Some mentioned PuffBar, Vuse and Juul as their favorite brand among those on the survey’s list.
But many said their favored e-cigarette brand was not one of the 13 listed. That finding highlights how nimble the industry has been in stamping an array of brand names on vapes with flavors like strawberry ice cream and fresh vanilla that are largely made in China and shipped from warehouses to corner stores and into e-commerce.
One stark finding was that 1 in 4 of the high school students who were e-cigarette users reported vaping every day. Groups opposed to e-cigarettes and tobacco products were particularly troubled by one other result that reflected the highest frequency-of-use to date: Nearly half of the high school students who were vaping said they were doing so 20 to 30 days a month.
“That’s a real signal of addiction and setting up young people for a lifetime of addiction which they don’t want, they didn’t choose and they don’t like,” said Robin Koval, president of the Truth Initiative, a nonprofit organization aimed at eliminating youth tobacco use.
The full results of the survey, which will include levels of other tobacco product use, is expected out later this year.