FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 14, 2016
CONTACT: Mina Radman, 202-296-5469
New Survey Shows Record 3 Million Kids Used E-Cigarettes in 2015 – How Many More Reasons Does the White House Need to Act?
Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
WASHINGTON, DC – The government’s 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey released today shows that while youth cigarette smoking remains at historically low levels, the alarming increase in youth use of electronic cigarettes continues and overall youth use of any tobacco product has not fallen since 2011.
This survey provides several million more reasons why the Obama Administration must act now to issue a long-overdue rule providing for FDA oversight of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and cigars. The survey shows that a record-high 3 million middle and high school students were current (past 30-day) users of e-cigarettes in 2015, while 1.4 million youth used cigars and 1.2 million used hookahs.
None of these tobacco products is currently regulated by the FDA to stop marketing and sales to kids or otherwise protect public health. It has been five years since the FDA first indicated it would seek to regulate these products, nearly two years since the FDA issued a proposed rule on April 24, 2014, and almost six months since the FDA sent the White House Office of Management and Budget a final rule for review on Oct. 19, 2015 (by executive order, OMB review is supposed to take no more than 90 days).
How many more children have to start using these unregulated tobacco products before the Administration acts? Every day of inaction further endangers the health of our children. Earlier this week, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and 29 other leading public health and medical groups wrote President Obama to urge that this critical rule be issued without further delay.
Today’s survey shows that the huge increase in youth e-cigarette use since 2011 is continuing. From 2014 to 2015, current e-cigarette use rose from 13.4 percent to 16 percent among high school students and from 3.9 percent to 5.3 percent among middle school students. From 2011 to 2015, there was a more than ten-fold increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students – from 1.5 percent to 16 percent. Just between 2014 and 2015, the total number of youth e-cigarette users increased from 2.46 million to 3 million. For the second year in a row, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products among both middle and high school students – in fact, nearly twice as many youth reported using e-cigarettes compared to cigarettes (3 million to 1.6 million).
Cigar use among teens also remains a serious concern. The survey shows that high school boys now smoke cigars at a slightly higher rate than cigarettes – 11.5 percent for cigars and 10.7 percent for cigarettes.
These trends are not surprising – and they are preventable with effective FDA oversight. These unregulated tobacco products are marketed with slick tactics and sweet flavors that clearly appeal to kids. E-cigarette manufacturers are following the cigarette marketing playbook for reaching kids, using celebrity endorsements, TV and magazine ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts. They come in more than 7,000 flavors, many like gummy bear, cotton candy and bubble gum that appeal to kids. Cigars are also available in an array of candy and fruit flavors. FDA regulation is needed to prevent marketing and sales to kids, as well as the use of flavors that attract kids.
It is also critical that Congress allow the FDA to do its job without political interference. Congress must reject all efforts to attach special interest provisions to appropriations bills that weaken the FDA’s authority and benefit the tobacco industry. This week, one such provision was added that would exempt many cigars from FDA oversight and completely block the FDA from implementing its pending rule unless such cigars are exempted. Another provision that was eventually defeated last year, but could be offered again, would weaken FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and cigars already on the market. Today’s survey results show why Congress must reject these provisions and act to protect kids, not the tobacco industry.
The best news in the survey is that cigarette smoking among high school students has fallen by 41 percent since 2011, with the smoking rate declining from 15.8 percent to 9.3 percent in 2015. But this finding is tempered by a lack of decline from 2014 to 2015.
The survey also shows that overall youth use of any tobacco product has not changed since 2011, holding steady at about a quarter of high school students. The big increase in e-cigarette use is a major factor. In addition, more than 2.3 million youth were current users of two or more tobacco products.
Altogether, these survey findings underscore the need for strong action to prevent youth use of all tobacco products. In addition to effective FDA regulation, other strategies that must be fully implemented include higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include hard-hitting media campaigns. By doing what we know works, we can build on the tremendous progress in reducing smoking and make the next generation tobacco-free.
The 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey results were published by the CDC and the FDA in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.