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The FDA’s Teen E-Cigarette-Addiction Epidemic Doesn’t Add Up



Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on September 12 announced an agency initiative to “address [the] epidemic of youth e-cigarette use” (here) and a teen-vaping-related “epidemic of addiction.”  He promised to use the FDA’s “civil and criminal enforcement tools” to reign in e-cigarette marketers.

Dr. Gottlieb based his assessment on non-public data, but publicly available data from the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) does not show an epidemic. 

The table at left displays the percentages of the estimated 14.9 million high school students who were “currently” using cigarettes and e-cigarettes, by number of days in the past month.  The numbers in each box represent the percentages of all high school students.  For example, 84.3% of students used neither product (boldtext, upper left). 

Current users of e-cigarettes are in the red-bordered boxes.  The majority (60%) of current vapers used the products 5 or fewer days (green text) – the equivalent of trying products at a party.  In contrast, a minority (20%) of vapers used them 20-30 days (red text), which is suggestive of dependence.  Half of those were not using cigarettes (bold red text).  This means that in 2017, only 184,000 high schoolers (1.24% of 14.9 million) constituted the FDA’s e-cigarette-addiction epidemic.

Original author: Brad Rodu
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