E-cigarette use among high school students in the United States prior to the COVID-19 pandemic: Trends, correlates, and sources of acquisition

Prev Med Rep. 2022 Jul 22;29:101925. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101925. eCollection 2022 Oct.


Detailed description of the prevalence and sources of e-cigarettes among youth is needed to inform effective regulatory policies. We used the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data (2015-2019) to assess trends in current (past-30-day-use) and frequent (≥10 days in past-30-days) e-cigarette use among United States high schoolers before the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we assessed trends overall and then stratified by participants' sociodemographic characteristics, use of other tobacco products, and experiences of psychosocial stress. We also evaluated past year quit attempts and the changing sources of e-cigarettes. Our sample size was 41,021 (15,356-2015; 12,873-2017; 12,792-2019). The prevalence of current e-cigarette use increased from 24.0% (95%CI:21.9%-26.3%) in 2015 to 32.7% (30.4%-35.1%) in 2019. The proportion of current users who reported frequent use also increased significantly from 22.6% (20.4%-24.8%) to 45.4% (42.7%-48.2%). Thus, an increasing proportion of US high school students who use e-cigarettes reported frequent use, indicating greater nicotine dependence. The increase in current and frequent e-cigarette use was more pronounced in youth who reported other substance use and psychosocial stressors such as bullying. Between 2017 and 2019, there was a decline in the proportion of youth who bought e-cigarettes online (6.9% to 3.2%) or from convenience stores (22.0% to 16.6%). Conversely, there was an increase in the proportion who borrowed (34.5% to 40.1%) or purchased e-cigarettes through other people (10.7% to 18.0%), indicating that most youth are evading age-related restrictions by obtaining e-cigarettes from other people. Finally, a considerable proportion of youth tobacco users are making quit attempts; 47.6% (45.1%-50.1%) in 2019.

Keywords: Electronic Cigarettes; High school Students; Psychosocial Stress; Trends; Vaping.