The number of teens who used tobacco products continued to fall in 2016, with significant declines among young e-cigarette users, according to a CDC report published Thursday.
For the report, researchers from CDC and FDA analyzed data from the 2011–2016 National Youth Tobacco Surveys to determine current tobacco use among U.S. middle school and high school students. The surveys asked students about seven types of tobacco products:
- Smokeless tobacco;
- Small, leaf-wrapped cigarettes called bidis; and
- Regular cigarettes.
Overall, the report found the number of middle and high school students who identified as current tobacco product users in 2016 dropped significantly, falling from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016.
Those declines were driven largely by a drop in e-cigarette use, according to the report. The number of teens who said they were current e-cigarette users fell from 3 million in 2015 about 2.2 million in 2016, marking the first time e-cigarette use has declined among teens since the federal government began tracking the data in 2011. According to the report, e-cigarette use among high school students fell from 16 percent in 2015 to 11.3 percent in 2016, while e-cigarette use among middle school students fell from 5.3 percent in 2015 to 4.3 percent in 2016.
Brian King, senior author of the CDC report, attributed the declines in e-cigarette use to several factors, including federal and public health group efforts to educate teens about the products' potential health hazards and the inclusion of e-cigarettes in local antismoking ordinances for public areas.
Public health experts applauded the progress but said that more work remains to further reduce the number of teens who use tobacco products.
Matthew Myers, president of the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "This is a change of a cosmic nature that has the potential to dramatically impact lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other problems."
Alexander Prokhorov of MD Anderson Cancer Center, said, "The [report] reminds us that it is too early to rest on our laurels," adding, "The tobacco industry is constantly looking for ways to recruit new customers and it is clear that youth remain its primary target."
In a statement Thursday FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that while the latest numbers "are encouraging, it is critical that we work to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products" (Stein, "Shots," NPR, 6/15; Clarke, Reuters, 6/15; McGinley, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 6/15; Boyles, MedPage Today, 6/15).
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