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CDC Survey Finds Nearly a Third of High School Students Used E-Cigarettes in 2019 – It’s Time to Eliminate the Flavored Products Addicting Kids

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
August 20, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results released today by the CDC are a powerful reminder of the severity of the youth e-cigarette epidemic and demonstrate that it is as urgent as ever that policymakers eliminate the flavored, nicotine-loaded products that have addicted millions of kids.

Following the 2019 Monitoring the Future survey and the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, this is the third national survey to show that youth e-cigarette use skyrocketed between 2017 and 2019. The YRBS found that 32.7% of high school students were current e-cigarette users in 2019, up from 13.2% in 2017. Alarmingly, nearly a third of these youth e-cigarette users reported frequent use (on at least 20 days a month), which is a strong sign of addiction. Indeed, nearly 11% of all high school students used e-cigarettes at least 20 days a month, compared to less than 2% for regular cigarettes, indicating that e-cigarettes are now addicting far more kids to nicotine than cigarettes.

The cause of this youth addiction crisis couldn’t be clearer: E-cigarette makers like Juul and its copycats have lured kids with appealing flavors and hooked them with massive doses of nicotine. Juul and other e-cigarettes deliver as much, if not more, nicotine as a whole pack of 20 cigarettes. Flavors play a critical role in attracting kids, as 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month and 70% cite flavors as a key reason for their use.

The solution to this crisis is also clear: Policymakers at all levels must eliminate the flavored products that are luring and addicting our kids. To date, four states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island – and a growing number of cities and counties have ended the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes (Massachusetts and some localities have ended the sale of all flavored tobacco products). In contrast, the Trump Administration broke its promise to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes, leaving thousands of flavored products for sale.

The FDA has another critical opportunity to protect our kids because e-cigarette makers face a court-ordered September 9 deadline to apply to the agency and demonstrate a public health benefit in order to keep their products on the market. The FDA must use this process to stop the sale of flavored and high-nicotine products – including Juul – that put our kids at risk.

As the CDC reminded us today, e-cigarettes pose serious threats to the health of our kids. The CDC report states, “Nicotine is highly addictive, can harm the developing adolescent brain, and can prime the brain for addiction to other drugs. In addition, a growing body of scientific literature suggests that youths who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes in the future.”