E-Cigarettes Remain Most Popular Youth Tobacco Product in New CDC Survey; Highlights Need for Product Regulation to Protect Kids

March 10, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C.—March 10, 2022 – A new survey released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finds youth tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. Nearly a quarter of middle and high schoolers surveyed reported ever using tobacco and more than 2.5 million report current use (within the last 30 days.) E-cigarettes continue to be the most commonly used tobacco product with more than 2 million middle and high schoolers reporting current use.

“The results from this survey are a clear sign we are headed in the wrong direction when it comes to youth tobacco use,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We need our leaders to step up and take action to pass strong tobacco control policies at all levels of government. FDA must do their job and rule on the premarket review applications from e-cigarette manufacturers that are on their desk to put a long overdue end to the extended, unregulated time these products have enjoyed on the market. This survey shows our kids are paying the price for the inaction of adults in this country.”

Congress also plays an important role in curbing youth tobacco use. The legislation included in the bipartisan House-passed omnibus appropriations bill to close a major loophole Big Tobacco is exploiting is also critical to changing the course of youth tobacco use. The tobacco industry is claiming certain products, particularly e-cigarettes, are made from synthetic nicotine and not tobacco in order to avoid federal and state regulation. Most recently Puff Bar, which holds the largest e-cigarette market share and is the most preferred e-cigarette among youth, withdrew its premarket review application at FDA claiming the company now uses synthetic nicotine and, therefore, is not subject to regulation. By clarifying that the definition of tobacco products includes any product that contains nicotine, regardless of the source of the nicotine, this legislation will give the FDA authority to regulate it as a tobacco product.

The survey also found alarming, but not surprising, trends when it comes to use of menthol and flavored tobacco products, shining a spotlight on the need for FDA to issue its proposed rule to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. Among youth who currently used any tobacco product, 8 out of 10 used a flavored product. Among youth who currently smoke cigarettes, 38.8 percent smoked menthol cigarettes and among youth who currently smoked cigars, 44.4 percent smoked a flavored cigar. Overall, Black youth had the highest combustible tobacco use rates, including smoking cigars at more than double the rate of their peers.

“We’ve known for a long time that Big Tobacco uses menthol and flavored tobacco to target youth, Black Americans, and the LGBTQ+ community and it’s time we stop these predatory practices,” said Lacasse. “We look forward to seeing FDA’s proposed rule on menthol and flavored cigars and hope a strong rule will be finalized swiftly.”

ACS CAN will continue to work with federal, state and local lawmakers to pass proven tobacco control policies including comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular and significant tobacco tax increases, adequate funding for state tobacco prevention and cessation programs and Medicaid coverage for cessation treatments and services.

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