More teens are vaping, and many think it’s nicotine-free

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By Maggie Fox and Erika Edwards

A new study released Monday confirms a giant spike in the number of high school students who are vaping, and it finds many may not realize they’re almost certainly inhaling highly addictive nicotine.

The annual survey of substance use among high school students shows 37 percent of seniors have tried vaping, up from just under 28 percent in 2017. Nearly 21 percent of seniors said they had recently vaped in 2018, compared to 11 percent in 2017.

The findings are similar to startling figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, which found a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use by teens in just a year. The increase was so worrying that the Food and Drug Administration announced a series of actions aimed at cutting underage access to vape products.

“The most surprising news to me was how frequently teenagers are vaping,” Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissioned the survey, told NBC News. “Right now over one-third of high school seniors report using a vaping product.”

The latest survey indicates that students may not realize they’re using an addictive substance. More than 25 percent claimed they vaped “just flavoring” in the past year, up from 20.6 percent in 2017. But Compton said students may not really be checking.

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