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(CNN) — Overall tobacco use among middle school and high school students dropped slightly, by about 1 percent, since last year, largely driven by declines in e-cigarette use among high schoolers, according to data released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration from the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
The new report finds that about 10 percent of students in those grades — or 2.8 million youth — reported using any type of tobacco product during 2022-2023.
Overall current tobacco use dropped among high school students, from 16.5 percent to 12.6 percent, and about 580,000 fewer high schoolers reported currently using e-cigarettes.
But among middle school students, overall tobacco use increased from 4.5 percent to 6.6 percent, and and use of multiple tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, increased from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. E-cigarette use among middle school students stayed about the same as last year, the report says.
“E-cigarettes remained the most commonly used tobacco product among both high school and middle school students for the 10th year in a row,” the FDA said in a news release.
About 1 in 4 students who use e-cigarettes use them daily and nearly all (89.4 percent) use flavored products, according to the FDA.
“The decline in e-cigarette use among high school students shows great progress, but our work is far from over,” said Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, the director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, in a statement. “Findings from this report underscore the threat that commercial tobacco product use poses to the health of our nation’s youth. It is imperative that we prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and help those who use tobacco to quit.
Middle school and high school students chose to use disposable e-cigarette products the most, the survey found, and for the first time ever, the survey asked about concept flavors like “iced” or “island bash.”
“Accounting for these products provides a more robust picture of flavored tobacco product use among youth, with the results suggesting that flavored tobacco product use among youth might be higher than previously thought,” the FDA said in a statement.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey is a web-based survey given to young people in grades 6 through 12. The survey was administered from March 9-June 16.
Limitations include that the data is all self-reported and there were fewer responses this year than for the 2022 survey. Additionally, only public and private school youth were surveyed, which the report says may mean that the results are not generalizable to young people who are being home schooled, are in detention centers or who have dropped out of school.
According to the CDC, e-cigarettes are not safe for young people, as nicotine can harm the developing brain, and they may contain other potentially harmful chemicals. Use of nicotine in youth can increase risk of future addiction to other substances, the agency says.
Smoking cigarettes is the “leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States,” harming almost every organ in the body and costing the US hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
“Each day, about 1,600 youth try their first cigarette,” the CDC says.
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