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Vaping Among Teens Levels Off in Latest MTF Survey

December 16, 2020

Nicotine and marijuana vaping among teens did not increase from 2019 into early 2020, but use among this population remains high, according to data from the Monitoring the Future survey released this week.

The MTF has included questions on nicotine and marijuana vaping since 2017, and usage soared over the first three years studied. To wit: past-year nicotine vaping by roughly doubled from 2017 to 2019 for eighth graders (7.5% to 16.5%), 10th graders (15.8% to 30.7%) and 12th graders (18.8% to 35.3%). In 2020, however, such usage has plateaued at 16.6%, 30.7% and 34.5%, respectively. A marked decline was found in near-daily nicotine vaping (20 times within the past 30 days) among 10th and 12th graders.

Also of note with regards to nicotine vaping, use of JUUL vaping devices, previously the most popular brand among teens, declined. Past-year usage of JUUL devices among 10th graders dropped from 28.7% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, and among 12th graders, usage dropped from 28.4% to 22.7%.

“The rapid rise of teen nicotine vaping in recent years has been unprecedented and deeply concerning since we know that nicotine is highly addictive and can be delivered at high doses by vaping devices, which may also contain other toxic chemicals that may be harmful when inhaled,” said NIDA director Nora D. Volkow, MD, said in a news release announcing the findings. “It is encouraging to see a leveling off of this trend, though the rates still remain very high.” 

Past-year vaping of marijuana among all three grades surveyed remained consistent in 2020, while daily marijuana vaping decreased by more than half to 1.1% for 10th graders and 1.5% for 12th graders. Overall use of marijuana in all forms (including smoking and vaping) remained the most commonly used illicit substance among adolescents and usage did not change among any of the grades surveyed for lifetime, past-year or past-30-day use.

Other findings from the MTF survey:

  • Past-year, non-medical use of amphetamines among eighth graders climbed from 3.5% to 5.3% in 2020, but 10th and 12th graders have reported lows in past-year use at 4.3%, continuing a five-year decline.
  • Past-year use of inhalants among eighth graders has also increased, from 3.8% in 2016 to 6.1% in 2020, while 12th graders’ use has dropped to all-time lows.

NIDA noted that this year’s survey was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses from students were collected from Feb. 11 through March 14, and the 11,821 surveys that were completed were about 25% from a normal year’s total. Results came "from a broad geographic and representative sample, so the data were statistically weighted to provide national numbers,” NIDA said. The study’s investigators are currently working with schools to deploy the 2021 survey early next year.

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