Over 3 million middle and high school students in the U.S. reported current use of a tobacco product in 2022, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
Over 2.5 million of all students reported using one of the battery-powered devices that simulates tobacco smoking this year, such as Juuls and vapes, nearly on par with the over 2 million that disclosed current use of an e-cigarette in a similar survey from 2021. That number is down significantly from the estimated 3.6 million students who reported using an e-cigarette within the past 30 days in 2020.
In 2022, just 440,000 students reported using a cigarette within the past month, up slightly from the 410,000 who disclosed current use last year.
Still, the campaign to reduce youth smoking has been a huge success. Only about 1.6% of students smoked in the past month, according to the survey. Nearly a quarter smoked in 2000, according to a separate study from the University of Michigan. Although the numbers cannot be directly compared, the vast disparity suggests that cigarette use among students has gone from commonplace to nearly eliminated.
E-cigarettes have largely replaced cigarette use among youth.
Behind e-cigarettes, cigars were the most common tobacco product among all students, followed by cigarettes. Other popular tobacco products included smokeless tobacco, hookah, nicotine, heated tobacco products, and pipe tobacco.
“It’s clear we’ve made commendable progress in reducing cigarette smoking among our nation’s youth. However, with an ever-changing tobacco product landscape, there’s still more work to be done,” said Brian King, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products.
Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most popular tobacco product used among youth, though progress has been made to cut down on the number of middle and high school students using the products in recent years.
A similar survey from the FDA and CDC in 2021 found that an estimated 2.06 million youths were currently using e-cigarettes. In 2020, an estimated 3.6 million middle and high school students disclosed current use of e-cigarettes with 80% reporting using a flavored product.
The 2022 study cautioned, though, that there was limited ability to draw a direct comparison to previous years as the way the studies were conducted differs. This year’s study was administered to people in grades six through 12 in private and public schools from Jan. 18 through May 31 using an online survey, with 99% completing it on-campus. In 2021, nearly 50% of the students responded to the survey at home or another place besides the school grounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
States and the federal government are working to reduce tobacco use among youth. In 2019, the federal minimum age for sale of tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21 years old.
States and localities, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Los Angeles, have aimed to curb e-cigarette use among youth by banning most flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and fruit-flavored vaping liquids, with research showing that flavorings make the products more appealing to youth.
The FDA has also proposed a rule that, if finalized, would prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The agency already banned flavored cartridges used in vaping devices in 2020, though tobacco companies quickly turned to manufacturing menthol vapes or synthetic nicotine products.
Tobacco companies have fought regulations that would cut their profits, arguing in lawsuits against the bans that they have put safeguards in place to make sure their products don’t fall into the hands of minors, such as training retailers on how to check the legal age of customers.