Use of e-cigarettes among high school students has declined from 14.1% in 2022 to 10% this year, according to 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. Use of any tobacco product in high school also declined by about 540,000, from 2.51 million in 2022 to 1.97 million in 2023.
However, the percentage of middle school students using any tobacco product increased from 4.5% to 6.6% since last year. Among middle and high school students combined, there was no significant change in use of tobacco products, with 2.80 million middle and high school students overall reporting current tobacco product use.
E-cigarettes remain the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth since 2014. The CDC says it continues to be "a critical public health concern," with approximately one half of students ever using e-cigarettes having reported using them currently, indicating that many students who try them continue to use them.
The CDC is calling for continued youth interventions and tobacco use prevention.
Schools have tried a number of strategies, including introducing vape monitors and detection canines, spreading awareness and education through after-school programs and in-school materials, and taking punitive measures.
Behavioral experts have also suggested partnering with local health organizations and state departments to fund in-school programs and curriculum.
Schools have also expended resources on lawsuits, which picked up significantly in the past few years and have led to major financial settlements.
Earlier this year, six states and the District of Columbia settled for $462 million with Juul Labs Inc., one of the largest e-cigarette companies. As part of the settlement, the company agreed not to advertise its products within 1,000 feet of public schools and to curb advertising to youth in those states.
By April, the lawsuits had already cost the company over $1 billion in settlements to 47 states.
Juul Labs was also dealt a blow earlier in 2022 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required the company to pull its products from the market. However, the FDA sales ban was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court.
In the meantime, the concealability and accessibility of vape devices are making it difficult for schools to track students' usage and intervene.
At the start of the school year, for example, the emergence of highlighter vape pens alarmed school safety experts who warned students, families and educators to veer away from such devices. It added to a long list of vape pens disguised by manufacturers as other popular school supplies or personal products — like USB drives, white out containers and chapstick — often used by students.