More than 3 million US middle and high schoolers – about 11% of those students – reported current tobacco use in 2022, according to a new study from researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the ninth consecutive year, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among youth – about 2.55 million reported using them – followed by cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
“Youth use of tobacco products – in any form – is unsafe,” said the report, which was released Thursday. “Such products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain. Using nicotine during adolescence might also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.”
The study is based on the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which is given to young people in grades six through 12. The survey was administered from January 18-May 31, 2022. Because of changes in methodology, the researchers say there’s limited ability to compare the estimates with those from years before.
The report detail disparities in tobacco use among young people: Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska native youth reported the highest percentage of any tobacco use product, about 13.5%. Non-Hispanic White youth reported the most e-cigarette use, 11%, while Black youth reported the most combustible tobacco product use, 5.7%, including cigar use, 3.3%.
Higher levels of tobacco use were also reported among students who reported receiving grades of mostly Fs, 27.2%; among those with severe psychological distress, 18.3%; and among those identified as transgender, 16.6%, and lesbian, gay or bisexual, 16%.
“Commercial tobacco product use continues to threaten the health of our nation’s youth, and disparities in youth tobacco product use persist,” Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “By addressing the factors that lead to youth tobacco product use and helping youth to quit, we can give our nation’s young people the best opportunity to live their healthiest lives.”
The report notes there may be “higher volume of exposure to tobacco promotion and advertising” and higher tobacco retail density in racial and ethnic minority communities.
Tobacco use is “the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death among adults in the United States,” the report says, and nearly all tobacco use begins in youth.
Researchers call for continued surveillance of all tobacco products, sustained implementation of tobacco control strategies and FDA regulation of tobacco products.
“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,” Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a statement on Thursday.
Limitations include that the data is all self-reported, and only public and private school youth were surveyed. According to the report, the results may not be generalizable to youth in alternative schooling, detention centers, or youth who have dropped out of school.