Teen Vaping Drops 40 Percent During Pandemic, About 2 Million Still Using, FDA Says

Teen vaping in the U.S. dropped 40 percent this year, according to a report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A national survey showed 11 percent of high school students and less than 3 percent of middle school students vape, a significant drop from last year. Overall, the FDA and CDC estimate about 2 million U.S. teens are vaping.

While the survey is usually conducted in the classroom, this year's results were collected using an online questionnaire for the first time to accommodate students both in school and at home. More surveys are due to come out later this year.

Some experts believe the drop in vape usage is due to online classes in the pandemic, as many teens vape socially.

"They found a dramatic drop from last year and it's hard to imagine that doesn't represent a real decrease in use among high school and middle school students," Dr. Nancy Rigotti of Harvard University told the Associated Press.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Teen Vaping
Teen vaping numbers dropped 40 percent in the pandemic, with about 2 million teens still using vapes, according to a report from the FDA and CDC. Above, people sit in Bryant Park as the city moves into Phase 3 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on July 14, 2020 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images

Even before the pandemic, a number of new restrictions were curtailing underage use of e-cigarettes. In late 2019, a new federal law raised the purchase age for all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. Shortly afterward, the FDA banned nearly all flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes, which first sparked the teen vaping craze.

Also, some kids may have been scared off by an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths; most were tied to a filler in black market vaping liquids that contained THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high.

For months, tobacco experts have speculated about the potential effect of school closures on vaping, given most teens vape with their friends and get e-cigarettes from their peers.

Rigotti said the decline will have to be confirmed by other surveys due out later this year. It's also hard to predict whether vaping could rebound now that most schools have returned to in-person classes.

"I'm sure schools are working hard to ensure that doesn't happen," she said.

Thursday's report comes as the FDA is poised to potentially place even bigger limits on the vaping industry. The agency is in the midst of a sweeping federal review to decide which e-cigarette brands and products can stay on the market, after years of regulatory delays.

"E-cigarette use among youth remains a serious public health concern," CDC specialist Dr. Karen Hacker said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the agency announced a ban on thousands of products, but it has not yet ruled on a handful of major manufacturers that account for most sales, including Juul and Vuse.

The new government numbers show teen vaping habits are shifting away from those brands. The top brand cited by high schools students is a disposable e-cigarette called Puff Bar that comes in flavors like pink lemonade, strawberry and mango. Disposable e-cigarettes are not subject to the tight flavor restrictions of products like Juul, which is only available in menthol and tobacco. Only 6 percent of students said they regularly use Juul.

Teen Vaping Drops in U.S
A new report from the FDA and CDC found the most popular vape was the Puff Bar flavored disposable vape device. In this January 31, 2020 file photo a woman holds a Puff Bar in New York. Marshall Ritzel/AP Photo