CDC says teen vaping surges to more than 1 in 4 high school students

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In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus.

AP Photo | Steven Senne

More than one in four high school students in the U.S. use e-cigarettes as teen vaping rates surged to yet another record despite efforts to control the epidemic, according to new federal data.

Among high school students, 27.5% reported using an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days, up from 20.8% in 2018, according to preliminary results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey. Fruit and menthol and mint flavors were by far the most popular flavors, with more than 60% of teens who vaped saying they used them.

The rapid rise in teen e-cigarette use — up from 11.7% in 2017 — and an outbreak of a mysterious lung disease tied to vaping have jolted federal officials into action. The Federal Drug Administration said Wednesday it will soon pull flavored e-cigarettes off the market, at least until it can review their safety.

First Lady Melania Trump tweeted the latest CDC data, released late Wednesday, saying “it’s our responsibility as parents to understand the dangers that come from vaping. Our Administration supports the removal of flavored e-cigarettes from stores until they’re approved by @US_FDA.”

Public health advocates say e-cigarettes have erased years of progress in reducing smoking rates among minors and is getting a new generation addicted to nicotine. They blame market leader Juul, which is partially owned by tobacco giant Altria, for making vaping trendy among young people who view smoking as unfashionable. While vaping rates among high school students hit a new high, teen smoking hit a new low of 5.8%.

Juul makes sleek devices that are easy to use, and hide. Its nicotine pods are available in flavors many say are too appealing to kids, like mango and mint. They pack a powerful punch, with one pod containing as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

The FDA has embraced e-cigarettes as a less harmful way for smokers to satisfy their nicotine addiction than smoking cigarettes. Skyrocketing numbers of minors started using the products, forcing the FDA to reverse course last year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said the administration will leave tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes on the market for the estimated 8 million adults who use the products to quit smoking.

“If we find that children start surging into tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes or if we find marketing practices that target children and try to attract them into tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, we will engage in enforcement actions there also,” he told reporters.

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes. However, the long-term health risks are unknown. An outbreak of a mysterious lung disease linked to vaping has heightened scrutiny.

The CDC is investigating more than 450 cases of lung disease that health officials suspect were caused by vaping.

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