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New National Survey: More U.S. Teens Used E-Cigarettes than Traditional Cigarettes in 2014

Shocking Results Show Why FDA Must Act Now to Regulate E-Cigarettes – Our Kids Can’t Wait
December 16, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — A respected national survey of teen substance abuse has truly shocking news that should sound an alarm at the FDA: Significantly more teens reported recent use of e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes in 2014.

Released today, the government-sponsored Monitoring the Future survey is the first national survey to show teen use of e-cigarettes surpassing use of regular cigarettes and the first to report tobacco use data for 2014. It follows the release in November of the CDC’s 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that e-cigarette use among high school students tripled between 2011 and 2013 (from 1.5 percent to 4.5 percent who reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days).

Monitoring the Future provides new evidence that kids are trying e-cigarettes at an alarming rate. It found that past-month e-cigarette use exceeded past-month cigarette use among all three grades surveyed (8th, 10th and 12th), with more than twice as many 8th and 10th graders reporting using e-cigarettes compared to regular cigarettes:

  • Among 8th graders, 8.7 percent reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, while only 4 percent reported using a traditional cigarette.
  • Among 10th graders, 16.2 percent reported using an e-cigarette and 7.2 percent reported using a traditional cigarette.
  • Among 12th graders, 17.1 percent reported e-cigarette use and 13.6 percent reported use of a traditional cigarette.

In addition to these surveys on youth e-cigarette use, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that poisoning incidents involving e-cigarettes and nicotine liquids continue to soar. Through November 30, there have been 3,638 calls to poison control centers involving exposures to e-cigarette devices and nicotine liquids. This is more than double the 1,543 calls in all of 2013 and more than 13 times the 271 calls in 2011. In a terrible tragedy, a one-year-old boy in New York last week became the first person in the United States to die accidentally from swallowing liquid nicotine, according to news reports.

The big increases in both youth use of e-cigarettes and poisoning cases show that e-cigarettes are a clear and present danger to our children. How much more evidence does the government need before it acts?

These developments underscore the urgent need for the FDA to finalize its proposed rule to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. We again call on the FDA to issue a final rule by April 25, 2015 – one year after the agency issued a proposed rule – and to close gaps in the rule by cracking down on marketing and flavors that appeal to kids. The FDA must also require child-resistant packaging for nicotine liquids.

The FDA first announced in early 2011 that it planned to regulate e-cigarettes, cigars and other unregulated tobacco products, so these important public health protections are long overdue. We cannot afford more delays that buy the tobacco industry time to continue targeting our kids with a new generation of products.

There is also good news in today’s Monitoring the Future survey. Cigarette smoking has again dropped to record lows among all three grades surveyed, the seventh year in a row this has happened among 12th graders. Past-month smoking rates fell to 13.6 percent among 12th graders, 7.2 percent among 10th graders and 4 percent among 8th graders. Since peaking in the mid-1990s, smoking rates have fallen by 81 percent among 8th graders, 76 percent among 10th graders and 63 percent among 12th graders.

The big drops in cigarette smoking demonstrate that we know how to win the fight against tobacco by implementing scientifically proven strategies. These include higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include mass media campaigns, and effective FDA regulation of all tobacco products. The long-term decline is an indication that the latest decline is not related to the increase in use of e-cigarettes.

However, novel products such as e-cigarettes threaten to undermine these gains and lure kids into an addiction to nicotine. According to the CDC, nicotine use by youths in any form is unsafe and can harm adolescent brain development.

This increase in youth e-cigarette use comes as e-cigarette makers have marketed their products with the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts. In addition, many e-cigarettes come in sweet, colorful flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy, which helps explain both their appeal to youth and the increase in poisoning incidents.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in our country, killing 480,000 people and costing about $170 billion in health care expenses each year. It is within our reach to win this fight and make the next generation tobacco-free, but only if we have the political will to fully implement what we know works.

The Monitoring the Future survey has been conducted annually since 1975 by researchers at the University of Michigan and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.