News from the FDA/CDC

Youth tobacco use shows ‘promising declines’



Tobacco use among middle and high school students has dropped since 2011, and e-cigarettes have replaced cigarettes as their favorite form of tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The prevalence of current tobacco use – defined as use on 1 or more days in the past 30 days – among high schoolers fell from 24.2% in 2011 to 19.6% in 2017, and middle school use decreased from 7.5% to 5.6% over that same time. That means the number of youth tobacco users went from almost 4.6 million in 2011 to slightly more than 3.6 million in 2017, Teresa W. Wang, PhD, and her associates said in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

smoking in middle and high school students, 2017
Use of cigarettes, which were the most popular form of tobacco among middle (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12) students in 2011, was down to 7.6% among high schoolers in 2017, which put it third behind e-cigarettes (11.7%) and cigars (7.7%). E-cigarettes also were the product of choice for middle schoolers with a prevalence of 3.3%, followed by cigarettes (2.1%) and smokeless tobacco (1.9%), said Dr. Wang of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and her associates.

Almost half (47%) of the high school students who used tobacco in 2017 used two or more products, as did two out of five (42%) middle schoolers. That year, black high school students were less likely to use any tobacco product (14.2%) than were whites (22.7%) and Hispanics (16.7%). E-cigarettes were the most popular form of tobacco among white and Hispanic high schoolers, while cigars were the most commonly used form among blacks, they reported based on data from the National Youth Tobacco Surveys, which had sample sizes of 18,766 in 2011 and 17,872 in 2017.

“Despite promising declines in tobacco use, far too many young people continue to use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said in a written statement accompanying the report. “Comprehensive, sustained strategies can help prevent and reduce tobacco use and protect our nation’s youth from this preventable health risk.”

In a separate statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said, “We are working hard to develop a pathway to put products like e-cigarettes through an appropriate series of regulatory gates to properly evaluate them as an alternative for adults who still want to get access to satisfying levels of nicotine, without all the risks associated with lighting tobacco on fire. And we will continue to encourage the development of potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery for currently addicted adult smokers. … But these public health opportunities are put at risk if all we do is hook another generation of kids on nicotine and tobacco products through alternatives like e-cigarettes.”

SOURCE: Wang TW et al. MMWR. 2018;67(22):629-33.

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