What’s behind the numbers: Restrictions can have an impact on taste.
One thing is clear about e-cigarette use at a young age: teens love the taste. Nearly 90 percent of students who reported vaping said they used flavored products, and cited favorite products that tasted like fruit and candy.
Teens identified Elf Bar and Esco Bar as their favorite brands, which are famous for flavors like strawberry kiwi and watermelon ice.
Public health advocates in California recognized this attraction, leading to a years-long fight to ban flavored tobacco products, which took effect in December. Accordingly, sales declined sharply for data from CDC Foundation. From December 2022 to June this year, sales of flavored e-cigarettes fell nearly 70 percent from about 575,000 vapes or refills to 179,000.
There’s no doubt that the ban has made it harder for youth to purchase vapes in California, where you must be 21 to purchase tobacco products.
Public health experts have also linked other state and local flavor bans and education campaigns to the decline in high school vaping rates, which are the lowest in nearly a decade. And a few years ago, under public pressure, Juul, once the most popular brand, withdrew most of its flavors from the market.
The survey was given in about 180 schools across the country, and was released by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. It reported on e-cigarette use in the past 30 days but did not include any state-specific information.
Overall, about 2.1 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes, down from 2.5 million last year. But surveys conducted over the past few years, since the height of the vaping crisis in 2019, have been cautious about making strict year-to-year comparisons because of the pandemic situation when students were in and out of school.
Why it matters: Studies identify health risks of vaping for teens.
Federal officials who regulate e-cigarettes see their use as a way to help adult smokers quit traditional cigarettes, given the well-known cancer risks.
But e-cigarette use has become extremely popular among non-smokers. About 40 percent of people who use e-cigarettes are under the age of 25, including many who started Juul when it was first introduced. Most of those youth had never smoked before vaping, according to the CDC
The health effects are well known by now. One Recent study from the University of Southern California looked at the toxicity of chemicals in e-cigarettes and sent questionnaires to teens who vaped. There was a significant increase in symptoms of wheezing, shortness of breath and bronchitis. And many experts have expressed concern about the effects of nicotine addiction on teenagers’ developing brains.
What’s next: Proposed menthol ban and increased enforcement of illegal imports.
The FDA is moving toward banning menthol cigarettes and pushing a proposal to drastically cut nicotine levels in cigarettes. This has led legacy tobacco companies to embrace e-cigarette sales as a way to move forward in the market to offset declining overall cigarette sales.
Yet those companies — along with several lawmakers in Congress and anti-smoking groups — say they are disappointed by what the FDA considers lax enforcement while the agency has authorized about two dozen vaping products for sale, thousands more illegal. Candy-colored flavored vapes are flooding the country and are top sellers.
The FDA said it would step up its enforcement efforts, including import bans on Elf Bar and Esco Bar products and fines on retailers who continue to sell them. The agency has issued warning letters to the manufacturers of those vapes and several others.
Brian King, head of the FDA’s tobacco division, welcomed the findings, but said: “We cannot rest on our laurels. “There is still more work to be done to build on this progress.”
Dr. Neff said his agency needed to better understand why there was a small but significant increase in use of any tobacco product in middle school, from 4.5 percent last year to 6.6 percent this year.
“Our work is not done yet,” Dr. Neff said.
Other researchers noted that the combined general use of tobacco products by middle and high school students dropped barely from 11 percent last year to 10 percent this year. Karen Knudsen, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, said, “On balance, there has been no change in youth tobacco use.” “And that’s worrying.”