Teens are vaping in record numbers

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BETHESDA, Md. — America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017.

These findings come from the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey of a national sample of eighth, 10th and 12th graders in schools nationwide, funded by a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Reported use of vaping nicotine specifically in the 30 days prior to the survey nearly doubled among high school seniors, from 11 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent in 2018.

More than 1 in 10 eighth graders say they vaped nicotine in the past year, and use is up significantly in virtually all vaping measures among eighth, 10th and 12th graders.

Reports of past year marijuana vaping also increased this year, at 13.1 percent for 12th graders, up from 9.5 percent last year.

“Teens are clearly attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in vaping devices; however, it is urgent that teens understand the possible effects of vaping on overall health; the development of the teen brain; and the potential for addiction,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“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.”

The percent of 12th graders who say they vaped “just flavoring” in the past year also increased to 25.7 percent in 2018 from 20.6 percent in 2017.

However, it is unclear if teens know what is in the devices they are using, since the most popular devices do not have nicotine-free options, and some labeling is inaccurate.

There was also a significant jump in perceived availability of vaping devices and liquids in eighth and 10th graders, with 45.7 percent and 66.6 percent, respectively, saying the devices are “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get.

Tobacco

This year’s survey shows regular tobacco is still at its lowest point in the survey since it began measuring it, with only 3.6 percent of high school seniors smoking daily, compared to 22.4 percent two decades ago.

Smoking tobacco with a hookah is significantly lower than five years ago, at 7.8 percent in the past year among high school seniors, compared to 21.4 percent in 2013.

Opioids

The past year use of narcotics other than heroin (i.e., prescription opioids) is at 3.4 percent among 12th graders — a change from 4.2 percent in 2017.

Only 1.7 percent of high school seniors report misuse of Vicodin in the past year, compared to a peak of 10.5 percent 15 years ago.

It is also important to note that heroin use in all three grades remains low with only 0.4 percent of 12th graders reporting past year use.

Marijuana and other drugs

Close to 1 in 4 high school seniors report use of an illicit drug in the past month, led by marijuana use.

Rates of overall marijuana use are steady, with 5.8 percent of 12th graders reporting daily use.

Daily use of marijuana has been reported by high school seniors for the past 20 years at somewhere between 5.0 and 6.6 percent.

Past year rates of marijuana use are generally steady among sophomores and seniors, showing as 27.5 percent for 10th graders and 35.9 percent for 12th graders.

However, there is a significant five-year drop among eighth graders — from 12.7 percent in 2013 to 10.5 percent in 2018.

There continues to be more 12th graders who report using marijuana every day than smoking cigarettes (5.8 percent vs. 3.6 percent), and only 26.7 percent of 12th graders think marijuana use offers great risk of harm.

Alcohol

The survey found 17.5 percent of 12th graders say they have been drunk in the past 30 days, down significantly from five years ago, when it was reported at 26 percent.

Reports of binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) is down among 12th graders, at 13.8 percent, compared to 31.5 percent when the rates peaked in 1998.

These findings represent the lowest rates seen for these alcohol measures since the survey began asking the questions.

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