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E-cigarette and tobacco use among high school students declines, CDC study finds

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E-cigarette use is down among high school students but remains steady among middle schoolers compared to last year, according to a study released Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This new report is based on findings from the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which looked at use of nine tobacco product types, flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes among both age groups.

From 2022 to 2023, findings showed general tobacco use among high schoolers declined from 16.5% to 12.6%, while e-cigarette use declined from 14.1% to 10.0%.

Among middle schoolers, grades 6 to 8, there were no significant changes in e-cigarettes use from 2022 to 2023. An increase did occur in the number of middle school students currently using at least one tobacco product (4.5% to 6.6%) or multiple tobacco products (1.5% to 2.5%). 

"The decline in e-cigarette use among high school students shows great progress, but our work is far from over," Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in a news release. "Findings from this report underscore the threat that commercial tobacco product use poses to the health of our nation's youth. It is imperative that we prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and help those who use tobacco to quit."

The research also highlighted that use of tobacco products in any form is unsafe, especially for young people

"Tobacco products contain nicotine and can harm the developing adolescent brain," the release noted. "Moreover, youth tobacco product use can lead to lifelong nicotine addiction and subsequent disability, disease and death."

Authors also noted some limits to this year's survey, including a lower response rate, which fell from 45.2% last year to 30.5% this year.

E-cigarettes have been a yearslong public health concern.

In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for a major new effort to discourage children and teenagers from using e-cigarettes.

"The increasing use of e-cigarettes among youth threatens five decades of public health gains," the AAP said.

On "CBS This Morning" at that time, Dr. Tara Narula, former CBS News senior medical correspondent, described the use of e-cigarettes among young people as "an epidemic."

"And we know it's not just the harms of the e-cigarettes, but the fact that it is a gateway to traditional cigarette use," she said.

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