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Government Survey Shows Youth Tobacco Use at Highest Rate in 19 Years Due to E-Cigarette Epidemic – Administration Must Implement Plan to Remove Flavored E-Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 05, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Driven by skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes, the percentage of U.S. high school students who use tobacco products is at its highest level in 19 years, according to results of the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey released today by the CDC and the FDA. The survey shows that 31.2% of high school students and 12.5% of middle school students – 6.2 million kids altogether – were current (past-month) users of some type of tobacco product in 2019. The percentage of high school students who use tobacco products is the highest since 2000 (when 34.5% reported some form of tobacco use).

While it is good news that the survey shows continued progress in reducing cigarette smoking among high school students, we can and should be making progress in reducing youth use of all tobacco products – as the nation did for years before the rise in youth e-cigarette use.

This increase in youth tobacco use is driven by the surging youth use of Juul and other e-cigarettes, which have become by far the most commonly used tobacco products among youth. As previously reported, more than 5.3 million kids used e-cigarettes in 2019, an increase of over 3.2 million in the past two years. From 2017 to 2019, current e-cigarette use more than doubled among high school students (from 11.7% to 27.5%) and tripled among middle school students (from 3.3% to 10.5%). Of particular concern, 1.6 million middle and high students reported frequent use of e-cigarettes (on at least 20 days a month), a strong indication of addiction.

These survey results are deeply troubling. They leave no doubt that e-cigarettes are reversing decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use and are addicting a new generation of kids. These results demonstrate why the Trump Administration must move forward without delay and without backtracking to implement its plan, announced in September, to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes. The new survey results confirm once again that flavors play a key role in youth use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, with the large majority of youth tobacco users reporting that they used flavored products.

We urge the Administration to implement its plan to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes without delay and without weakening it. There is no time to waste in preventing e-cigarettes from reversing the historic progress our nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use.