Fewer adolescents are using tobacco these days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of current tobacco users among middle and high school students, defined as those who have used a tobacco product in the previous 30 days, dropped from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016.
The CDC attributes this decline primarily to a drop in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students from 3 million in 2015 to just under 2.2 million in 2016. The number of high school students who used 2 or more tobacco products, any combustible tobacco products, or hookahs declined from 2015 to 2016 as well.
“Far too many young people are still using tobacco products, so we must continue to prioritize proven strategies to protect our youth from this preventable health risk,” said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat, MD.
According to the CDC, tobacco prevention and control strategies at the national, state, and local levels likely contributed to the reduction in tobacco use, particularly for e-cigarettes. Yet the CDC also notes that continued surveillance of all forms of youth tobacco product use is important to help determine whether the current downward trend continues.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has invested heavily in compelling, science-based education campaigns such as ‘The Real Cost’ that have already helped prevent nearly 350,000 kids from smoking cigarettes and continues to enforce important youth access restrictions,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “We plan to build on these vital efforts to reduce tobacco-related disease and death.”
The CDC found that 20.2% of high school students and 7.2% of middle school students were current tobacco users. E-cigarettes were the most popular choice for the third consecutive year, used by 11.3% of high school students and 4.3% of middle school students. Last August, the FDA began enforcing new federal regulations that prohibited the sales of e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 years.
The declines in tobacco use may be good news for this generation’s long-term oral health, as smoking stains the teeth, impairs healing, and causes gum disease and oral cancer. The drops in alternative tobacco usage paired with new regulations may be particularly encouraging, as studies have shown that e-cigarettes kill epithelial cells, damage tissue, and may cause cancer.