The results of the 2022 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) were published on December 15. The annual survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan tracks the use of various substances from tobacco and vapor products to illicit drugs, among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders across the country. Despite the good news that youth vaping is at levels far below their peak in 2019, anti-tobacco and vapor organizations are now using these results in an even more nefarious fashion and are continuing to decry a youth vaping epidemic.
According to MTF, in 2022, only 17% of 8th graders, 28.2% of 10th graders, and 38.8% of 12th graders reported ever trying a nicotine-containing e-cigarette product in their lifetime. While there was a slight increase in some age groups between 2021 and 2022, youth vaping is still at levels far below 2019.
Between 2021 and 2022, lifetime use of e-cigarettes increased by 2.4% among 8th graders and by less than 1% among 12th graders, but it decreased by nearly 1% among 10th graders. Between 2019 and 2022, lifetime e-cigarette use decreased by 16.3% among 8th graders, by 22.3% among 10th graders, and by 4.9% among 12th graders.
Regarding past-month or current use, defined as having used an e-cigarette product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey, only 7.1% of 8th graders, 14.2% of 10th graders, and 20.7% of 12th graders reported current e-cigarette use. While current e-cigarette use did increase among 10th and 12th graders by 8.4% and 5.6%, respectively, between 2021 and 2022, among middle schoolers current e-cigarette use declined by 6.6%. Similar to lifetime e-cigarette use, past-month e-cigarette use has declined since peaking in 2019, decreasing by 26% among 8th graders, 28.6% among 10th graders, and 18.8% among 12th graders.
Despite these substantial reductions, anti-vaping organizations are already quick to urge regulators and policymakers to ban flavored e-cigarettes and are actively cherry-picking data in their calls to do so.
For example, in a press release from the Bloomberg-funded Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) announcing the 2022 MTF results, CTFK president Matthew Myers claims that “youth e-cigarette use remains a serious public health problem in the United States,” and finally acknowledges that youth vaping peaked in 2019, but points only data on 12th graders and compares it to 2018 figures.
Moreover, instead of using data from the MTF 2022 survey that CTFK is writing a press release on, the organization turns to 2022 data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey regarding frequent and daily use of e-cigarettes.
According to the MTF, in 2022, only 1.2% of 8th graders, 3.3% of 10th graders, and 6.2% of 12th graders reported daily e-cigarette use. Again, these are significant declines from 2019 when 2% of 8th graders, 6.8% of 10th graders, and 11.6% of 12th graders reported daily e-cigarette use. Unfortunately, there is no data on daily e-cigarette use in the 2018 MTF.
Interestingly, CTFK does acknowledge that “youth cigarette smoking rates remain at record lows.” This is encouraging given that CTFK still claims on its website that there “is limited evidence that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, and some studies have found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become smokers.”
According to the MTF, in 2022, less than 1% of 8th graders, 1.7% of 10th graders, and 4% of 12th graders reported past-month cigarette use. Since 2007, when e-cigarettes first hit the U.S. market, current smoking rates among 8th graders have decreased by 73.3%, among 10th graders by 76.4%, and among 12th graders by 67.5%.
Looking at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2021, only 7.4% of 18 to 24-year-olds were currently smoking—a 74.7% decrease from 2007 when nearly one-third (29.3%) of young adults reported current cigarette use.
Just in time for 2023 legislative sessions, it is imperative that lawmakers focus on real problems facing teens, not a conflated and misleading argument by organizations that pick and choose data to present to policymakers.