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CDC blames spike in teen tobacco use on vaping, popularity of Juul

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming nicotine vaping devices like Juul for single-handedly driving a spike in tobacco use among teens, threatening to erase years of progress curbing youth use.

Over the course of a year, the number of high school students using tobacco products, which include e-cigarettes, increased by about 38 percent, the CDC found in its annual National Youth Tobacco Survey released Monday. That translates to about 27 percent of high school teens using tobacco products in 2018, the CDC said.

Of all the tobacco products the CDC surveys students about, including cigarettes and hookah, only e-cigarettes saw a meaningful increase in use. Among high school students, e-cigarette use surged nearly 78 percent. In 2018, nearly 21 percent of high school students vaped, up from close to 12 percent in 2017.

In 2018, 1.5 million more middle school and high school students vaped than in 2017, up to 3.6 million from 2.1 million, according to the survey.

While the survey did not specifically ask teens about Juul, Brian King, deputy director for research translation in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said the increase in e-cigarette use coincides with the rise in sales of Juul’s products.

Teens are also vaping more frequently than before. About 28 percent of teens who are vaping are doing it 20 or more times per month, a 39 percent increase from the 20 percent of teens who were defined as frequent users in 2017, the CDC said.

About 40 percent of high school students who said they used tobacco said they used two or more types of products, a 23 percent increase. About 15 percent of them vaped and smoked cigarettes, according to the survey.

The data confirms anecdotal reports that more and more teens have started to use e-cigarettes, particularly Juul. Public health officials, including the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and the surgeon general, have warned that the trend could reverse two decades of driving down teen smoking rates.

“The skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction.”

Among other tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars, the CDC did not find any significant change. That means e-cigarettes were the sole driver of the increase in overall tobacco use, the agency said. E-cigarettes surpassed cigarettes to become the most commonly used form of tobacco among middle school and high school students in 2014.

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