Vaping among high school students doubled in 2017 – the largest increase in smoking, drinking and drug use ever recorded in the U.S., a new survey by University of Michigan researchers has found.
The unprecedented leap in teen vaping echoes the earlier findings of U.S. government surveys, which prompted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to take a series of bold actions against the vaping industry – especially manufacturers who design their products and marketing with a special appeal to teens and children.
More than 1.3 million high school students started vaping in 2017, according to the University of Michigan study. For high school seniors, one in five reported using vape devices in the previous month.
Health officials attribute the drastic rise in teen vaping to new vape devices that look like computer flash drives, such as those made by Juul Labs. Juul’s version of the vape pen can be charged on a computer’s USB port and its design allows it to be used discreetly.
Juul vape devices became wildly popular among teens, propelling the 2015 start-up to a $15 billion company by mid-2017.
In October, federal authorities raided Juul’s San Francisco headquarters and seized boxes of documents that could give officials a more accurate picture of the company’s sales and marketing practices and inform federal regulations.
The FDA says the rate of vaping among U.S. youth has become an epidemic, reversing decades of progress in preventing teen smoking. The alarming surge in teen vaping is especially concerning because nicotine has harmful and lifelong effects on the developing brain.
“There are no redeeming benefits of [vaping] for young people,” Corinne Graffunder, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health, said. “The use of certain USB-shaped [vape devices] is especially dangerous among youth because these products contain extremely high levels of nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain.”