Lost in the never-ending reports of COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and new cases was a nugget of good news: vaping by U.S. teenagers fell dramatically, especially among middle schoolers.
The national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that just under 20 percent of high schoolers and 5 percent of middle schoolers said they were recent users of electronic cigarettes and other vaping products.
That’s a significant decline from last year when the survey posted numbers of 28 percent for high schoolers and 11 percent for middle schoolers.
By any mark, that’s progress. The CDC said the survey suggests that nationwide the number of school-age children who vape fell by 1.8 million – from 5.4 million to 3.6 million – which indicates there is still work to do.
While teen use declined, experts said there appears to be a bump in the use of disposable e-cigarettes. According to an Associated Press report, while the Food and Drug Administration early this year barred flavors from small vaping devices like Juul and others that are mainly used by minors, the policy did not apply to disposable e-cigarettes, which can still contain sweet, candylike flavors favored by young people.
“As long as any flavored e-cigarettes are left on the market, kids will get their hands on them and we will not solve this crisis,” warned Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
The credit for the big drop in teen and middle school use was attributed to a combination of factors – and, yes, the worries over COVID-19 also got some of the credit. Sales of the vaping products started to decline in August when media coverage of the COVID outbreak increased. Higher prices, sales restrictions — the age limit is now 21 — and public health campaigns were also cited as reasons for the decline.
Still, in the first part of the year, vaping had resulted in an estimated 60 deaths and 2,800 illnesses — most of which were related to vaping solutions containing THC, the active ingredient for marijuana highs, according to health officials.
There is work to be done. But, at least for now, the needle appears to be heading in the right direction.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!