According to results from the latest National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 1.8 million fewer middle and high school students are using e-cigarettes in 2020 compared to 2019. FDA is encouraged by this significant decline. However, youth e-cigarette use has increased dramatically since 2011, and 3.6 million youth currently using e-cigarettes is still far too many.
Though E-Cigarette Use is Down from 2019, Teen Use Remains Alarmingly High
Teen e-cigarette use has increased alarmingly in the United States in recent years. Though only a small percentage of teens used e-cigarettes in 2011, 28 percent of high school students and 11 percent of middle schoolers used e-cigarettes by 2019. In 2020, these numbers declined somewhat to about 20 percent of high schoolers and 5 percent of middle schoolers currently using e-cigarettes. While this is progress from last year, youth use of e-cigarettes remains a public health issue that is affecting children, families, schools and communities.
Frequent E-Cigarette Use Suggests a Strong Dependence on Nicotine
This year’s NYTS shows that a disturbing number of teens are using e-cigarettes on a regular basis. In fact, almost 40 percent of high school users are using an e-cigarette on 20 or more days out of the month and almost a quarter of them use e-cigarettes every day. Middle schoolers also show disturbing signs of strong nicotine dependence, with a fifth of middle school-aged users using e-cigarettes 20 or more days in a month and nearly 10 percent of them using daily.
Teens are Using Disposable and Flavored Products
One concerning new finding from the 2020 NYTS is the surge in youth using disposable e-cigarettes. A disposable e-cigarette is designed for a single use, and some of these disposable products cost as little as a few dollars each. A disposable e-cigarette can’t be recharged or refilled, so it’s easy to just buy, use and then throw away.
Additionally, NYTS continues to show youth’s preference for flavored e-cigarettes. About 8 in 10 of youth e-cigarette users are consuming products with flavors like fruit, mint, candy and menthol. Among high school students who used flavored e-cigarettes, the most common flavors were fruit (73 percent), mint (56 percent), menthol (37 percent), and candy (36 percent). Among middle school students who used flavored e-cigarettes, the most common flavors were fruit (76 percent), candy (47 percent), mint (46 percent), and menthol (24 percent).
Where Do We Go from Here?
FDA is working hard to ensure that illegal e-cigarette products, especially those that attract and appeal to our children, are removed from the market. In early 2020, FDA began prioritizing enforcement against flavored, cartridge-based e-cigarettes, and other e-cigarettes that appeal to kids. In line with the recent uptick in youth use of disposable e-cigarettes, FDA notified several manufacturers of disposable e-cigarette brands to remove their products from the U.S. market. The recent Sept. 9 premarket submission deadline, which applied to e-cigarettes, marked a major milestone for ensuring new tobacco products – including many already on the market – undergo a robust scientific evaluation by FDA. We are diligently evaluating these applications, and FDA will only authorize these e-cigarette products if the science proves that, for example, their marketing is appropriate for the protection of public health. FDA will also continue to enforce the new minimum age of 21 to purchase tobacco products. In addition, while these initial 2020 NYTS findings are about youth e-cigarette use, the full 2020 NYTS data will be released soon. FDA will continue to consider and take appropriate actions based on the latest findings about youth use of all tobacco products.
FDA also makes significant investments in its public education campaigns to educate youth about the dangers of e-cigarette use and works in partnership with other agencies and organizations. FDA has also collaborated with Scholastic to develop interactive e-cigarette prevention lesson plans for middle and high school teachers, available in English and Spanish on the Scholastic website. The content is tailored both for classroom and remote learning. Teachers and other adults may use these Scholastic resources to educate youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes. Adults may also want to offer free quit resources to a child who they believe may be struggling with addiction.
The combination of all these efforts and factors may have contributed to this year’s decline in youth tobacco use, but with 3.6 million teens still using e-cigarettes, our work to protect young people from these highly addictive products is not done. FDA will continue to use all of the tools in our regulatory toolbox to address the public health crisis of youth e-cigarette use.
- Youth Tobacco Use: Results from the National Youth Tobacco Survey
- E-cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2020
- Order Free Print Copies of the 2020 NYTS Infographic
- National Survey Shows Encouraging Decline in Overall Youth E-Cigarette Use, Concerning Uptick in Use of Disposable Products
- Scholastic E-Cigarette Prevention Lesson Plans