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Tobacco Use Drops Among Middle and High School Students

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One of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States is tobacco. Ironically most tobacco users start using it during youth, even though it is widely known that use of tobacco products in any form is injurious to health.

A report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recently revealed that there was a marked decrease in the number of middle and high school students in the US using tobacco. In the year 2015, this number of students using tobacco was said to be 4.7 million and it dropped to 3.9 million in 2016 as cited in a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Center for Tobacco Products.

As a part of the survey, students were asked to fill in questionnaires from the National Youth Tobacco Survey. The aim of the survey was to find out the recent trend of tobacco use among youth. If a student had used a tobacco product in the last 30 days, he was counted as a tobacco user. The tobacco products that were included in the survey included e-cigarettes, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, hookah (a water pipe used to smoke tobacco), and bidis (small, flavored cigarettes wrapped in a leaf).

As per the data received, it is noted that there has been a sharp decline in the use of electronic cigarettes among the students in the year 2016. The data from the prior years show that for quite a long time the use of e-cigarettes was showing an upward trend. The 17% drop in the use of e-cigarettes is a welcome sign. But, there is a long way to go as e-cigarettes still remain quite popular among the youth.

In a statement CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat remarked that far too many young people are still using tobacco products, so prioritizing proven strategies to protect our youth from this preventable health risk must continue. It is likely that all the tobacco prevention and control strategies from all levels of government is showing some results and has contributed to the reduction in usage. But the authors of the report also stressed that continued surveillance was needed to determine if the trend continues.

The comprehensive strategies that can help in preventing and reducing the use of tobacco products in all from among American youths include:

–    Creation of smoke-free policies that include e-cigarettes.

–    Social media campaigns that spread awareness among kids about the risk of tobacco use.

–    Imposing taxes on tobacco products to increase its price.

–    Awareness about secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol.

–    Putting some restriction on the advertisement and promotion of tobacco products.

–    Increasing the minimum age for tobacco product purchase to 21 years.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb opined that even though the latest numbers are encouraging, it is critical that the work is continued to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products.

The data collected from the survey also point towards another disturbing trend “ the usage of more than one type of tobacco. In the year 2016, 2 or more types of tobacco products were used by 47.2% of high school tobacco users and 42.4% of middle school tobacco users. The data is raising a concern as the use of more than one type of tobacco product increases the symptoms of nicotine dependence.

As per the federal regulations since August 8, 2016, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco to anyone under 18 in person and online.

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