CDC Report Shows More Than One in Five High School Students Use Tobacco

More than one in five high school students currently use a tobacco product, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research published Nov. 13 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Of those users, 90 percent do so through combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipes. The new data is stark reminder of the future’s health stakes, considering that the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report last January concluded that unless youth smoking rates drop in more substantial numbers, 5.6 million youth current aged zero to 17 will die early from a cigarette smoking related-illness.

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In its National Youth Tobacco Survey the CDC found that in almost half (46 percent) of all high school students and 17.7 percent of middle school students admitted that they’ve used a tobacco product at least once in their lifetime. The survey also found that 22.9 percent of high school students and 6.5 percent of middle school students admitted to using a tobacco product within the last 30 days. Finally, results showed that 12.6 percent of high school students said they were currently using two or more tobacco products. While most youth who use tobacco believe they will be able to quit down the line, currently data show that three out of four high school smokers continue to do so into adulthood.

While the impact of electronic cigarette use on public health remains uncertain, the 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that nicotine use can have adverse effects on adolescent brain development, consequently finding nicotine use by youth in any form—combusted, smokeless, or electronic—to be unsafe. The CDC’s survey found that among all high school students and middle school students respectively, 4.5 percent and 1.1 percent admitted to using an e-cigarette within the last 30 days.

“Nine out of ten smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18,” said Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “We must do more to prevent our youth from using tobacco products, or we will see millions of them suffer and die prematurely as adults. Fully implementing proven tobacco control programs would help keep our youth from falling victim to tobacco.”

“It is disheartening to learn that young people are using e-cigarettes in growing numbers,” says Patrick T. O’Gara, MD, FACC, president of the ACC. “E-cigarettes, and particularly flavored e-cigarettes, are marketed to young people with tactics that are misleading at best and may be a gateway to the use of traditional cigarettes and nicotine addiction. It is critical that e-cigarettes and advertising for e-cigarettes be regulated so that children, adolescents and young adults do not start using an addictive substance under the misimpression that inhaling the vapor of e-cigarettes (‘vaping’) is less dangerous than using tobacco products. Dramatic reductions in deaths due to heart disease in this country in the last 30 years are due in part to the decline in cigarette smoking. We risk going backwards if a new generation of smokers become addicted to nicotine.”

“These findings only further support ACC’s stance on the proposed tobacco deeming rule, which calls for the need to quickly issue a final rule that includes strict regulation of e-cigarettes and their marketing to minors,” adds O’Gara.

Keywords: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S., Heart Diseases, Students, Nicotine, Public Health, Lobeline, Data Collection, Minors, Tobacco Use Disorder, Marketing, Smoking, Brain

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