More teens are vaping than ever before, according to the government’s annual drug use survey. It’s a “dramatic increase” in use rates over the last year.
Of high school seniors, 37.3 percent reported they'd vaped in the last year — a near 10 percent jump from last year’s survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s the single largest jump in usage rates of any drug in a single year — even more than during the height of marijuana use in the 1970s. Teens are also vaping more frequently, according to the survey, which includes 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade students. Reported use of nicotine vaping 30 days prior to the survey nearly doubled this year, from 11 percent to 20.9 percent.
But it’s not all bad news. Tobacco use is at its lowest since the National Institute on Drug Abuse began monitoring teen drug use. Only 3.6 percent of high school seniors reported daily smoking compared to 22.4 percent two decades ago, according to the survey. Opioid use also dropped almost a percent since last year, “a significant change,” according to the researchers who conducted the survey. Heroin use, in particular, remains very low among surveyed students. (Only 0.4 percent of seniors reported use in the last year.)
Still, researchers are concerned that vaping can lead to more drug use and that some teens may be developing nicotine dependencies without even realizing. More than a quarter of teens surveyed said they vaped “just flavoring” in the past year, but Juul — by far the most popular vaping brand — doesn't offer nicotine-free options. The FDA said in September that it was considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes due to an “epidemic” of increased use by children and teens.
“Research tells us that teens who vape may be at risk for transitioning to regular cigarettes, so while we have celebrated our success in lowering their rates of tobacco use in recent years, we must continue aggressive educational efforts on all products containing nicotine,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement.
Otherwise, the number of teens using “illicit drugs," such as cocaine and MDMA, is at a historic low, according to the survey. Marijuana use, however, remains steady: Daily use of marijuana has ranged between 5 and 6.6 percent in the last 20 years. More surveyed teens reported daily smoking of marijuana than daily cigarette smoking.
Cover image: A man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago in this April 23, 2014 file photo. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)