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Drop In Youth Vaping Is Stumping Health Officials

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Health officials are stumped by a new study showing electronic cigarette use by teens in the U.S. dropped significantly in 2016.

Youth vaping experienced a massive increase between 2011, when the products first gained traction, and 2015. Researchers at the University of Michigan, however, found a 3 percent drop in the youth vaping rate between 2015 and 2016. Officials are mystified by the results and do not have any conclusive explanations for the abrupt reversal in e-cigarette use, according to the university’s annual Monitoring the Future study.

The survey also documented the continued decline of cigarette use, which dropped 15.8 percent to 9.3 percent between 2011 and 2015 among high school students.

“Whether adolescent vaping has peaked or only paused is something we will be able to determine in the coming years,” Richard Miech, a senior investigator in the Monitoring the Future project, said in a statement Tuesday. “In the past, we have seen new drugs follow a pattern in which use increases at a fast pace during a honeymoon period and then reverses course and declines as knowledge of the substance’s drawbacks became known.”

Only 13 percent of high school students said they currently use an e-cigarette device, down from 16 percent in 2015. Only 1.5 percent of high schoolers used vape products in 2011. E-cigarette use spiked nearly 5 percent among middle school students between 2011 and 2015, but also experienced surprising declines in 2016.

The percentage of middle school smokers dropped from 4.3 percent to 2.3 percent between 2011 and 2015. Cigarette use continued to decline among all grade levels in 2016.

The surgeon general slammed electronic cigarettes as a public health risk and advised a regulatory crackdown Dec. 8, calling youth vaping a public health concern. Many health experts are taking issue with the Surgeon General report, criticizing government officials for ignoring the positive impact vaping is having on current smokers and the youth smoking rate.

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