About 1.8 million fewer U.S. youth used e-cigarettes compared to last year, though officials noted an alarming uptick in the use of disposable products.

Around 3.6 million U.S. youth reported e-cigarette use within the last 30 days, which is a decline from 5.4 million in 2019, according to an analysis of results from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The NYTS was conducted earlier this year on students in middle and high school.

This year, almost 20% of high schoolers and nearly 5% of middle schoolers reported current e-cig use, which is down from nearly 28% and 11%, respectively, in 2019, according to the CDC.

About 1.8 million fewer U.S. youth used e-cigarettes compared to last year, though officials noted an alarming uptick in use of disposable products. (iStock)

“Although the decline in e-cigarette use among our nation’s youth is a notable public health achievement, our work is far from over,” Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said in a news release. “Youth e-cigarette use remains an epidemic, and [the] CDC is committed to supporting efforts to protect youth from this preventable health risk.”

According to the CDC, any tobacco product use by youth is not safe, including e-cigs. These products have the highly addictive substance nicotine, which the CDC says can harm the developing adolescent brain and raise the risk for future drug addiction.

“After two years of disturbing increases in youth e-cigarette use, we are encouraged by the overall significant decline reported in 2020,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner, said in a news release.

While the NYTS survey found that pre-filled cartridges held steady as the most commonly used product type, disposable e-cig uses spiked by 1,000% (2.4% to almost 27%) among high schoolers and 400% (3% to 15%) among middle schoolers since 2019, per the CDC.

The vast majority (8 in 10) of young users reported using flavored e-cigs, like fruit, candy, and mint, but also menthol flavoring.

“These findings reinforce the importance of continuing to focus on the strategies that work to reduce youth tobacco product use while keeping pace with emerging trends in tobacco products,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

A second CDC study assessed U.S. e-cig sales trends, and the findings were reportedly consistent with the NYTS data. Pre-filled cartridges were still the leading product type sold and disposable sales jumped from 10% in August 2019 to nearly 20% of total sales by May 2020, per the CDC.

For pre-filled cartridge sales, mint sales dropped starting in August 2019, while menthol flavoring “dominated the market” by May 2020 at nearly 62%.

The survey findings come amid the FDA’s premarket review submission deadline for tobacco product applications. The FDA runs premarket scientific reviews of new tobacco products in its mission to protect the public.

The FDA also issued warning letters on Wednesday to three companies selling unauthorized electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) products to take them off the market.

Letters were issued to XL Vape LLC (conducting business as Stig Inc.), Flavour Warehouse LTD (operating as Vampire Vape), and Pretty Women UK LTD (T/A Coil2oil and Mad Kingdom Liquids).

These companies either didn’t have the necessary premarket authorization or illegally marketed unauthorized products.