The number of Florida teens and pre-teens – ages 11 to 17 – who use e-cigarettes has spiked 60 percent in the last year, from roughly 10 percent in 2017 to almost 16 percent in 2018, according to data gathered by the Florida Health Department.
For high school students only, the numbers are worse — about 25 percent of kids were using the e-cigarettes in 2018, the data show. The trend line is also troubling, with only 3.3 percent of high school kids using e-cigarettes in 2012. That’s about 650 percent increase in six years.
The data comes from the Florida Youth Tobacco survey, which is put together by the state’s health department.
What started out as a pragmatic way to save the lives of millions of adults has turned into an epidemic among teenagers, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said earlier this month.
The e-cigarette is a good way for adults to cut back on the number of harmful chemicals in regular cigarettes but is by no means a healthy habit for young people to pick up.
Gottlieb called the trend an “epidemic” in a statement and said the FDA will crack down on vendors who sell the product to anyone underage.
“I use the word ‘epidemic’ with great care,” Gottlieb said. “E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous – and dangers – trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It’s simply not tolerable.”
The FDA estimates that e-cigarettes could save an estimated 33 million people from becoming smokers nationwide and reduces the amount of harmful chemicals regular smokers inhale. The FDA said it is considering policy changes to target e-cigarettes, especially policy targeting what flavors the products come in, which attract younger people more than non-flavored e-cigarettes.
“The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products,” Gottlieb said.