Latest NYTS Shows Significant Drop in Vaping Among US High School Students 

In line with previous findings and arguments by countless tobacco harm reduction experts, the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has confirmed that there is no teen vaping epidemic.

The latest CDC data shows a significant drop in teen vaping, with a decrease from 14.1% in 2022 to 10.0% in 2023 among high school students. While the smoking rates among middle and high school students remain low at 1.6%. Vapes remained the most popular “tobacco product” among teens and vaping school usage slightly increased to 4.6% from 3.3%. Elf Bar and Esco Bars were the brands most commonly vaped.

US Health authorities are still concerned, saying that many who try vapes continue using them. Approximately 22.2% of 6.2 million students surveyed used some form of “tobacco” with 10% using e-cigarettes. Of these, 25.2% vaped daily, and 89.4% used flavoured vaping products. Despite the drop in high school vaping rates, the CDC said that combatting vaping remains an ongoing challenge.

Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) Michael Landl highlighted the need to dispel exaggerated panic about teen vaping while ensuring strategies to discourage youth vaping, without depriving adult smokers of safer alternatives. He stressed the importance of policymakers grounding strategies in research and scientific facts, urging a shift towards a harm reduction approach that safeguards youth but also supports adult access to safer nicotine alternatives. Overemphasizing the battle against teen vaping might hinder its potential benefits for adult smokers.

A proposed tax ignores this data
On that note, a newly proposed bill: HR 5715, suggests increasing taxes on all tobacco items (which in the US includes vaping products) to match the rate imposed on cigarettes. While the tax would equate to cigarette taxes being doubled, it also results in cigarettes being taxed at a significantly lower rate than vapes, despite containing similar amounts of nicotine. This of course contradicts the idea of “risk-proportionate regulation.”

Vape taxes in the US vary across states and are typically levied either as a percentage of the wholesale price or a fixed amount per milliliter of e-liquid. Some states impose excise taxes on the sale of vaping products. The goal of these taxes is two-fold: to generate revenue and to deter the use of e-cigarettes, particularly among the younger population. These taxes have always been met with criticism by THR experts, who point out that high taxes might restrict adult smokers from accessing less harmful vaping alternatives for quitting traditional cigarettes.

If the newly proposed tax is enacted, consumers would pay 5.5 cents per milligram of nicotine for vaping products compared to 1.1 cents per milligram in cigarettes. The tax hike also impacts other reduced-risk items like nicotine pouches, snus, and moist snuff, treating them similarly to cigarettes, despite their lower health risks.

The continuum of risk keeps being ignored
Health authorities like the FDA, the UK’s Royal College of Physicians, tobacco scientists, and other major global health entities, acknowledge a “continuum of risk” among tobacco products and recognize that nicotine itself is not the primary source of harm. While consumers who have shifted to e-cigarettes, snus, and nicotine pouches have witnessed significant improvements in their health. Sadly this bill disregards this risk continuum, and indicated a persistent ignorance with regards to safer nicotine alternatives.

To this effect, the Consumer Advocates For Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is urging consumers and advocates of the products to speak up and make a submission against the proposed tax to local authorities. A draft submission that the group has prepared underlines that the voter, a concerned constituent, urges opposition to HR 5715/ S 2929 and any similar legislation that treats low-risk, smoke-free nicotine products more severely than cigarettes. It concludes that the bill’s ignorance, whether deliberate or unintentional, is detrimental to public health and calls for the bill to be reconsidered.