Nicotine vaping among U.S. adolescents was down significant in 2021, according to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in the United States.
Among eighth graders, 12.1 percent reported vaping nicotine in the past year in 2021, compared to 16.6 percent in 2020. Among 10th graders, 19.5 percent reported vaping nicotine in the past year in 2021, compared to 30.7 percent in 2020. For 12th graders, the share reporting nicotine vaping in 2021 was 26.6 percent, compared to 34.5 percent in 2020.
Youth cigarette smoking fell to record lows this year, with past-month smoking rates of 4.1 percent for 12th graders, 1.8 percent for 10th graders and 1.1 percent for eighth graders.
Youth consumption of alcohol and illicit substances declined as well. “We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period. These data are unprecedented and highlight one unexpected potential consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused seismic shifts in the day-to-day lives of adolescents,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in a statement.
Despite the decrease in consumption, anti-vaping activists insisted that youth vaping remains a problem. “While this is a decline since youth e-cigarette rates peaked in 2019, it is nearly the same level as in 2018 (20.9 percent) when the U.S. Surgeon General, the FDA and other public health authorities declared youth e-cigarette use to be a public health epidemic,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in a statement.
The authors of the Monitoring the Future survey said this year’s results should be treated with caution due to the Covid-19 pandemic and remote learning. “Students who took the survey at home may not have had the same privacy or may not have felt as comfortable truthfully reporting substance use as they would at school, when they are away from their parents,” they noted.