Youth cigarette smoking rates in the United States are at historically low levels with just 1.9 percent of high school students reporting current use of cigarettes, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey 2021.
In 2021, an estimated 34 percent of high school students (5.22 million) and 11.3 percent of middle school students (1.34 million) reported ever using a tobacco product, a definition that includes e-cigarettes, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, hookahs, pipe tobacco, heated-tobacco products, nicotine pouches and bidis.
Current (past 30-day) use of a tobacco product was 13.4 percent for high school students (2.06 million) and 4 percent for middle school students (470,000). E-cigarettes were the most commonly currently used tobacco product cited by 11.3 percent of high school students (1.72 million) and 2.8 percent of middle school students (320,000) followed by cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, hookahs, nicotine pouches, heated-tobacco products (HTPs) and pipe tobacco.
The report also shows that 170,000 middle school students and high school students used HTPs in 2021, which appears odd given that the only HTP sold in the United States last year—Philip Morris International’s IQOS—was available only in a handful of test markets. Jim McDonald of Vaping360 suspects that this group of survey participants confused HTPs with another product, possibly cannabis vaporizers.
Interestingly, while 85 percent of youth vapers reported using flavored products, the availability of flavors was not listed as a top consideration by survey participants. When asked about their reasons for using e-cigarettes, they ranked friends and family, curiosity, anxiety and “I can use them to do tricks” as more important factors in their decisions.
Administered from January to May 2021, this NYTS was the first to be fully conducted amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with about half the students completing the online survey in schools and half completing it at home or at other locations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration cautioned that the 2021 results cannot be compared to previous years because of pandemic-related changes in methodology.