When it comes to teens and nicotine use, there is good news at last: “teens are lighting up less often when it comes to e-cigarettes and hookahs,” according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future national study which is in its 42nd year. The study tracks substance use by teens in 12th, 10th and 8th grades.
While the study cannot tell if teen “vaping has peaked or only paused” at this time, it did decrease between 2015 and 2016, for the first time since 2011. The study found “the percentage of adolescents who vaped in the last 30 days declined from 16 percent to 13 percent among 12th grade students, from 14 percent to 11 percent among 10th grade students, and from 8 percent to 6 percent among 8th grade students.” While usage declined, the perception of harm with vaping increased: from 16 percent to 18 percent in 12th, from 17 percent to 19 percent in 10th, and from 19 percent to 21 percent in 8th.”
One concern among researchers is that “vaping may lead to use of regular cigarettes.” Even among teens who have no desire to smoke, “vapers may come to believe the dangers of smoking are exaggerated if they do not experience any immediate health consequences from vaping.”
Another area seeing a decline is hookah use, which fell by more than one-third among 12th grade students in the past year (only 12th grade students are tracked). This is the first decline since hookah tracking began in 2010 when 17.1 percent said they used a hookah. Both hookah use and e-cigarette/vaping are considered alternative forms of cigarette products and reductions in their use is “a real reduction in nicotine consumption, and not just a change from one form of nicotine use to another.”
Cigarette use among teens continues to decline, “and reached the lowest levels recorded since annual tracking began 42 years ago.” Grade 12 cigarette smoking fell from 11.4 percent to 10.5 percent, “from 6.3 percent to 4.9 percent among 10th grade, and from 3.6 percent to 2.6 percent among 8th grade students.” Student cigarette smoking peaked in 1997 and since that time “the levels of past 30-day smoking have fallen by nearly 80 percent among 8th- and 10th-graders, and by more than 70 percent among 12th-graders.” It appears that fewer young people are starting to pick up the smoking habit today. Twenty years ago “49 percent of 8th-graders said they had tried cigarettes,” versus only 10 percent this year.
Tobacco control policies that include bans on public smoking, increases in tobacco taxes, and increases in the tobacco age decrease the glamor of tobacco and reduce teen use. Educational programs in schools and anti-smoking ad campaigns help teens make informed decisions about the dangers of tobacco. The reductions in tobacco use now are the first steps in reducing serious illnesses and premature deaths caused by tobacco and nicotine use in the future.
Click HERE for the press release and charts for the 2016 Monitoring the Future.