ATLANTA (CNN/AP/Gray News) – Public health officials are blaming a spike in teen tobacco use on vaping and e-cigarettes.
In a new report this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there was a nearly 80-percent jump in e-cigarette use among high schoolers from 2017 to 2018.
Experts attribute the vaping increase to the exploding popularity of newer versions of e-cigarettes like Juul that use flavored nicotine pods.
"We were making progress, and now you have the introduction of a product that is heavily popular among youth that has completely erased that progress," said Brian King with the CDC.
The connection is showing up in data King and his colleagues analyzed from the 2011-18 National Youth Tobacco survey to estimate trends among high school and middle school students.
The researchers found that in 2018, 27 percent of high school students and 7.2 percent of middle school students said they used tobacco for one or more days in the month.
The report says 4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2018.
Juul's popularity has been linked to aggressive marketing and its wide variety of flavors popular with youth.
A single Juul liquid nicotine pod can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, “which can harm the developing adolescent brain,” King said. Because teens’ brains are still developing, they can be more susceptible to addiction.
Juul responded in a statement.
"We are committed to fighting underage use of vaping products, including JUUL products," Juul spokeswoman Victoria Davis said Monday.
The company adds it has stopped selling flavored Juul pods to retail stores, enhanced its online age-verification, and are continuously working to remove inappropriate third-party social media content.
The statement also said Juul strongly supports raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years old.