By Sy Mukherjee
December 17, 2018

Happy Monday, readers.

The “kids these days” are the subject of a certain undying genre of social commentary (one that tends to skew, perhaps unsurprisingly, against the “kids”). Case in point: the gallons of largely judgmental digital ink that have been spilled on what millennials may or may not be “killing”. But what if the kids are actually, well, doing relatively okay—at least on a number of important public health metrics?

To that end, a new federally funded survey finds that teen use of addictive (and, to young, developing brains in particular, harmful) substances such as alcohol, cocaine, opioids, LSD, ecstasy, and conventional cigarettes are all on the decline. The survey examined some 45,000 teenagers in grades eight through 12 around the country.

The drop off in hard drug use is particularly encouraging from a public health perspective, experts said—as is the massive drop in conventional cigarette smoking, which is now down to its lowest level since 1975.

But the latter trend also underscores a more concerning one. Cigarettes use may be on a continuing downward spiral, but teen vaping has soared to a record high. In fact, some 21% of high school seniors used a nicotine vaping product in the past year, nearly doubling the rate of those who admitted to such use in last year’s survey.

The debate over e-cigarettes and other nicotine vaping products has reached a fever pitch this year. While proponents point to such devices’ potential to nudge adult cigarette smokers towards a relatively benign substitute, critics—including FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb—have taken a strong stance against the products, citing problematic marketing that specifically targets children. Gottlieb himself cited “epidemic” levels of teen vaping to justify his agency’s move to ban sales of flavored e-cigs at most commercial locations; the latest data appears to affirm that characterization.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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