Roughly 4.9 million American teens used e-cigarettes in 2018, an increase of 1.5 million teens in just 12 months, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.
The new figures prompted the head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates tobacco, to propose updating regulations of vaping products, such as Juul. Health officials said no other category of tobacco use changed among America’s high school and middle school students.
“These data are a sobering reminder of the rampant rise of youth e-cigarette use,” said FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb. “I fear this trend will continue in 2019, forcing us to make some tough decisions about the regulatory status of e-cigarettes.”
“No child should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing product and we’re committed to reversing this epidemic,” Gottlieb said.
The FDA is currently being sued by a group of health campaigners for delaying e-cigarette regulations meant to go into effect early in the Trump presidency. Following the release of new data on Monday, groups again called for the FDA to take “critical actions”, including stopping sales of all flavored tobacco.
“The skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use,” said Dr Robert Redfield, director of the CDC. “It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction.”
Last week, a group of 16 free-market thinktanks, at least 11 of which accepted tobacco industry donations, wrote to the FDA to urge the agency against regulation e-cigarettes. The groups said further regulation of e-cigarettes, fueled by “panic” over teen use, would cost the US jobs.
Altria, the US maker of Marlboro cigarettes, invested $12.8bn in the e-cigarette maker Juul this year, buying a 35% stake in the company.