Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Good News: Young Adults Sustain the High School Smoking Decline!


In January, I discussed results from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) showing that vaping among high school students increased considerably over the past five years, as use of cigarettes declined at a rapid rate (here).  With the release of 2019 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which I summarized a week ago (here), it is useful to compare high school vaping and smoking rates with those among young adults 18-24 years old, as seen in the chart at left.

The prevalence of smoking in 2014 – the first year that the NHIS collected vaping information – was 16.6%; it had fallen by over one-half by 2019, to 7.7%.  That was even better than the decline in smoking among high schoolers, which fell from 9.2% in 2014, to 5.7% in 2019 (in the chart below, for easy comparison). 

Vaping surpassed smoking among young adults in 2019 for the first time at 9%, only a modest increase from 5.1% in 2014.  Note that all NHIS vaping and smoking figures include about two percentage points of dual use; high schoolers showed about five percentage points of dual use during the same period.

It is noteworthy that the prevalence of vaping in young adults never reflects the high prevalence in high school students.  Take 2019, when high school vaping reached 27%, but registered 9% among young adults.  There are several reasons for this.  First, NYTS high school vaping rates are hyperinflated compared with other federal surveys, as I demonstrated here.  That is not the case with smoking rates, which in 2019 were 5.7% among high schoolers (NYTS) and 7.7% among young adults (NHIS).  Second, current use of these products among teens is “once in the past month,” whereas current use among adults is “every day or some days.”  Third, a small increase in tobacco use after high school is expected, as 18-year-olds escape parental and school supervision, and tobacco can be purchased legally.  It is likely that national adoption of Tobacco 21 will make further inroads into smoking and vaping.

One final impressive trend: Contrary to the scaremongering about a purported teen vaping epidemic, total vaping and smoking is down among young adults.  This is news featured only at Tobacco Truth.



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