Health Care

More U.S. Teens Are Vaping, but Use of Opioids, Alcohol Falling

More U.S. Teens Are Vaping, but Use of Opioids, Alcohol Falling

The government's top doctor is taking aim at the best-selling electronic cigarette brand in the USA, urging swift action to prevent Juul and similar vaping brands from addicting millions of teenagers.

She added that the difficulty youths face in accessing opioid drugs could explain this stark difference in use between teenagers and young adults.

According to a new survey, the number of high school students that use nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes nearly doubled in 2018 in comparison with 2017.

The survey found that the percentage of all high school students who used e-cigarettes has risen by a third over the past year.

Flavoring was the most commonly reported substance among eighth-graders at 15.1%, followed by nicotine at 10.9% and then marijuana at 4.4%.

The annual Monitoring the Future survey, by a team of researchers at the University of MI, showed that the increases in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 have been the highest ever in the past 43 years for any substance use in the US. New numbers from a study funded by the government show vaping has doubled among high-schoolers this year compared to last. Regulators will need to pay close attention to the fast-changing market and be ready to modify their policies if necessary, they said.

A total of 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported "any vaping" in the past 12 months, compared to 27.8 percent in 2017, the survey said.

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"Also, perhaps educational campaigns about the high risk of overdoses that are associated with the use of these substances, and the high risk of addiction to these substances, all of these factors may have had a positive impact (on) teenagers". Juul has taken steps to reduce teenage vaping, he said, such as ending the sales of certain flavored pods at retail stores starting last month, strengthening the age verification process on its website and eliminating its Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The use of any kind of nicotine-containing product - including traditional cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco - by 12th-graders grew from 23.7 percent in 2017 to 28.9 percent in 2018. Analysts now estimate the company controls more than 75 percent of the US e-cigarette market.

"Increasingly relaxed regulations around marijuana are likely to push our nation's youth in a similar direction as we've seen with vaping", Richter said.

"We've seen a softening of the attitudes toward marijuana, and youth respond to those", Compton said.

It seems e-cigs may have distracted teens from tobacco products, at least for now, with just 3.6 percent of high school seniors smoking every day, down from 22.4 percent two decades ago. "Now we also know that they are using it for 9THC", or tetrahydrocannabinol, a cannabinoid chemical in marijuana, she said. That's the largest percentage-point increase ever recorded by the survey for vaping within the last 30 days for that grade.

"We are encouraged to see continued declines in a variety of measures of underage alcohol use", says George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. While the devices are believed by many to be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes, they are far from harmless. Fewer teens reported binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row).