More U.S. Teens Are Vaping, But Use of Opioids, Alcohol Falls

Nora Nguyen
December 20, 2018

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 director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and researchers at the University of MI at Ann Arbor, who led the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey, announced Monday that nicotine-vaping rates have almost doubled among high school seniors, with 20.9 percent of seniors saying they've vaped nicotine during the past 30 days - up from 11 percent in 2017.

According to the surgeon general in 2014, nearly two and a half million middle and high school students were exposed to e-cigarette ads in stores, Internet, TV, movies and magazines.

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration, facing mounting pressure to act on the rising popularity of vaping devices, announced sweeping new restrictions on flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

In fact, it was the biggest one-year spike of any kind in the 44 years the Monitoring the Future survey has been tracking substance abuse by young people.

This year's findings are based on responses from about 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 in schools across the country. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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"What we are seeing is a change in the patterns of drug taking among teenagers in that they are the lowest that we've seen for many years", said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the report. "We see increases in whether the kids have ever used them, whether they've used in the past year or the past month". "We also know from many longitudinal studies of youth that those who use e-cigarettes are about three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes", she said.

The latest survey indicates that students may not realize they're using an addictive substance. The liquids come in kid-friendly flavors - from watermelon to the more exotic "unicorn puke" - that release fruity and sweet vapors, making e-cigs easier to disguise than traditional cigarettes.

In this February 20, 2014 file photo, a customer exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at a store in NY.

Compton said more progress is needed, however.

"When we see rates of around 6 percent of high school seniors smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis, that's an terrible lot of kids whose memory may be impaired and their brains aren't working at full steam at the exact time when they need to be", Compton said.

Nicotine vaping on rise among United States teenagers: Survey. Some focus on the potential benefit of shifting lifelong smokers to less harmful nicotine products, while others fear it will create a new generation addicted to nicotine.

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Interestingly, regular tobacco use remained at its lowest point with only 3.6 per cent of high school seniors smoking daily, compared to 22.4 per cent two decades ago. "Now we also know that they are using it for 9THC", or tetrahydrocannabinol, a cannabinoid chemical in marijuana, she said. "Right now the number is more like 1.7 percent".

Just 17.5 percent of 12th graders said they had been drunk in the past 30 days, down significantly from 26 percent in 2013, the survey showed.

"Even parents have a tolerance to alcohol, and in many instances, they maybe even provide the alcohol for parties that they are holding in their house, with the sense that, what harm is there to let teenagers drink when they are home?"

Students' growing attraction to vaping extended to marijuana, which increased by at least 50 percent across the board.

Fewer teens report binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row).

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