“Vaping is reversing hard-fought declines in the number of adolescents who use nicotine,” said lead author Richard Miech, from the university’s Institute for Social Research.
“These results suggest that vaping is leading youth into nicotine use and nicotine addiction, not away from it,” Miech added.
The annual Monitoring the Future survey, by a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, showed that the increases in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 have been the highest ever in the past 43 years for any substance use in the US.
The percentage of Class 12 grade students who reported use of nicotine in the past 30 days significantly increased to 28.5 in 2018 from 23.7 in 2017.
Nicotine use is indicated by any use of cigarettes, large cigars, flavoured or regular small cigars, hookah, smokeless tobacco, or a vaping device with nicotine.
Marijuana vaping also increased in 2018 — 13.1 per cent for 12th graders, up from 9.5 per cent last year.
“Vaping is making substantial inroads among adolescents, no matter the substance vaped,” said Miech, adding “In 2018 we saw substantial increases in vaping across all substances, including nicotine, marijuana, and adolescents who reported vaping ‘just flavouring.’
The survey showed that factors that make vaping so attractive to youth include its novelty and the easy concealability of the latest vaping devices, which better allows youth to vape without adults knowing about it.
“If we want to prevent youth from using drugs, including nicotine, vaping will warrant special attention in terms of policy, education campaigns, and prevention programs in the coming years,” Miech suggested.
The study covered 44,482 students from 392 public and private schools in the US.
Interestingly, regular tobacco use remained at its lowest point with only 3.6 per cent of high school seniors smoking daily, compared to 22.4 per cent two decades ago.
Use of prescription opioids and tranquilisers also declined in 2018. Other illicit drugs, including cocaine, synthetic cannabinoids, and MDMA as well as alcohol also remained at historic lows.