NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) — The number of teens who use vaping devices has taken a big leap in the last year.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, high school seniors who vaped nicotine nearly doubled this year compared to last year.
It was the largest single-year increase in the survey’s 44-year history, far surpassing a mid-1970s surge in marijuana smoking.
The use of vaping devices was also up for 8th and 10th graders.
The findings, released Monday, echo those of a government survey earlier this year. That survey also found a dramatic rise in vaping among children and prompted federal regulators to press for measures that make it harder for kids to get them.
“There’s a concern that by these very fashionable use of vaping devices of teenagers they are getting exposed to nicotine and marijuana that otherwise they wouldn’t have,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency that funds the study.
The survey is conducted by University of Michigan researchers and has been operating since 1975. This year’s findings are based on responses from about 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 in schools across the country. It found 1 in 5 high school seniors reported having vaped nicotine in the previous month.
Experts attribute the jump to newer versions of e-cigarettes, like those by Juul Labs Inc. that resemble computer flash drives and can be used discreetly.
After vaping and alcohol, the most common thing teens use is marijuana, the survey found. About 1 in 4 students said they’d used marijuana at least once in the past year. It was more common in older kids — about 1 in 17 high school seniors said they use marijuana every day.
Overall, marijuana smoking is about the same level as it was the past few years. Vaping of marijuana rose, however.
More teens, however, are saying no to lots of other substances. Usage of alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, heroin and opioid pills all declined.
Experts say it’s not clear what’s behind those trends, especially since the nation is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic ever.
“What is it that we’re doing right with teenagers that we’re not doing with adults?” said Volkow.
One leading theory is that kids today are staying home and communicating on smartphones rather than hanging out and smoking, drinking or trying drugs.
“Drug experimentation is a group activity,” Volkow said.
What about vaping?
“Vaping mostly is an individual activity,” said David Jernigan, a Boston University researcher who tracks alcohol use.
The vaping explosion is a big worry, however. Health officials say nicotine is harmful to developing brains. Some researchers also believe vaping will make kids more likely to take up cigarettes, and perhaps later try other drugs.
So far that hasn’t happened, surveys show. But the Juul phenomenon is recent, noted Richard Miech, who oversees the Michigan survey.
If vaping does lead to cigarette use among teens, that may start to show up in the survey as early as next year, he added.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)