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US kids dropping vaping and smoking

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American teenagers are turning away from e-cigarettes, sparking fresh hopes that youth smoking in the United States could be on the decline.

Overall tobacco use dropped among teenagers last year, but the use of e-cigarettes fell dramatically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual report on youth and tobacco.

The report found that 11.3 per cent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2016, compared with 16 per cent the year before. It is the first drop recorded.

Only 8 per cent of high school students smoked cigarettes last year.

Just over 20 per cent said they had used “any tobacco product”. That includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and small, leaf-wrapped cigarettes, as well as e-cigarettes.

Both percentages are the lowest on record.

President of the non-profit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew Myers, described the results as “unimaginable, extraordinary progress” and said almost 30 per cent of young people smoked cigarettes in 2000.

“This is a change of a cosmic nature that has the potential to dramatically impact lung cancer, heart disease, asthma and other problems,” he said.

But with the Trump administration already delaying enforcement of some tobacco regulations, health agencies are concerned there could be a weakening of the rules about the use and sale of e-cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.

Fears are that any such moves could reverse the progress being made in encouraging teenagers to resist the smoking habit.

Robin Koval, chief executive of Truth Initiative, a non-government organisation focussing on tobacco use by young people, said the new report suggested Americans could be “well on our way to finishing smoking for good”.

She said the rapid decline in e-cigarettes among teenagers suggested much of their use had been experimental and that the current offering of products was less appealing than it had once been.

Senior author of the CDC report, Brian King, said the decrease in e-cigarette use was likely a result of several factors, including efforts by the government and public health groups to educate young people about possible hazards of the products.

He said that while e-cigarettes don’t contain some of the harmful substances in conventional cigarettes, the inhaled vapour usually contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the adolescent brain, as well as ultrafine particulates and heavy metals.

Mr King also said declines in tobacco use could be due to increases in State and local tobacco taxes.

He added that the inclusion of e-cigarettes in anti-smoking rules banning smoking in restaurants and bars could also be contributing to the decline in the use of the products.

The US Government and a number of non-government organisations have mounted effective campaigns warning about the dangers of smoking.

The Food and Drug Administration stamped its authority on the regulation of e-cigarettes in 2016. But in May this year, it delayed for three months the enforcement of some regulations.

The delay came as the vaping and tobacco industries launched a forceful and strategic effort to wind back, through both legislation and litigation, the FDA regulations.

Chris Johnson

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