New Survey of Adult E-Cigarette Use Bolsters Need for FDA Oversight

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 28, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – A new CDC survey of electronic cigarette use by U.S. adults provides important new information that reinforces the urgent need for Food and Drug Administration regulation of e-cigarettes to ensure cigarette smokers have accurate information about them and prevent non-smokers from using them.

Conducted in 2014, the survey finds that 12.6 percent of adults had ever tried an e-cigarette and 3.7 percent of adults currently used e-cigarettes. Current cigarette smokers and recent former smokers were the most likely to use e-cigarettes.

The survey’s most alarming finding is that nearly 10 percent of 18 to 24 year olds who have never smoked cigarettes had tried an e-cigarette. This finding raises concerns that e-cigarettes may be introducing a generation of young non-smokers to nicotine addiction. It follows other recent surveys that found past-month use of e-cigarettes among high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, to 13.4 percent, and that in 2013, over a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes.

The new survey also finds that among current adult cigarette smokers who had tried to quit smoking in the past year, one in five (20.3 percent) were current e-cigarette users. This does not tell us whether e-cigarettes are effective at helping cigarette smokers quit. But it does point out the importance of FDA regulation to determine whether e-cigarettes are effective at helping cigarette smokers quit and, equally important, to provide cigarette smokers accurate information about which e-cigarettes are most effective at doing so.

The use of e-cigarettes by kids and young adults has come as e-cigarettes have been widely marketed using the same tactics once used to glamorize regular cigarettes, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts. E-cigarettes are also sold in a wide variety of youth-friendly flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear.

If there is a public health benefit to the emergence of e-cigarettes, it will come only if they are effective at helping smokers stop using cigarettes completely and if they are marketed so they do not re-glamorize smoking among young people. Effective FDA oversight is critical to achieving these goals. The FDA last week sent the White House a long-overdue final rule for review. It is critical that the White House issue this rule without further delay.