Number of e-cigarettes smokers among Chinese middle school students on the rise significantly: survey

31 May 2020

Xu Keyue Source, Global Times

E-cigarette smoking is becoming more popular among Chinese middle school students as the proportion of e-cigarettes smokers had increased significantly in 2019, according to a survey published on the 33rd World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on Sunday, which was also one day before the fifth anniversary of China’s capital Beijing banning public smoking. 

Experts, who widely promote quitting smoking, called on the public to protect young people from traditional tobacco products and e-cigarettes, which is also the theme of the 33rd WNTD.

According to the survey published by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of middle school students who have heard of e-cigarettes in the past five years and who are now using them has increased significantly. In 2019, 69.9 percent of junior middle school students had heard of e-cigarettes, and the rate of smoking e-cigarettes was 2.7 percent, up 24.9 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, compared with 2014, the Science and Technology Daily reported.

Respondents who have smoked traditional cigarettes in the past five years have decreased significantly at 12.9 percent in 2019 and 3.9 percent currently, down five and two percentage points respectively from 2014.

A total of 288,192 students from 1,024 junior middle schools and 974 senior high schools (including 277 vocational schools) in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities participated in the survey.

This survey, for the first time, included high school students smokers in China, which concluded that the smoking rates of senior high school students was much higher than that of junior middle school students, and the situation regarding tobacco control in vocational schools was not positive, the Science and Technology Daily said.

In 2019, 24.5 percent of senior high school students tried cigarettes, 8.6 percent now smoke them and three percent now use e-cigarettes, respectively, higher than junior middle school students.

Among them, smoking e-cigarettes is more popular in vocational schools with a 4.5 percent usage rate.

Experts, who promote quitting smoking, reached by the Global Times said some cigarette companies hype up the lessened health effects, safety and fashionable nature of e-cigarette usage, which can potentially mislead teenagers. 

However, e-cigarettes contain nicotine and high heavy metal content, which are harmful to teenagers who are more prone to becoming addicted to smoking, Cui Xiaobo, secretary-general of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, told the Global Times on Sunday.

It’s less harmful to people who had smoked cigarettes before and turned to e-cigarettes, noted Cui, who is also the initiator of Beijing’s smoking ban.

As teenagers who had tried e-cigarettes being more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future, Cui urged them to stay away from tobacco products and e-cigarettes as well. 

He also called on the strengthening of the management of e-cigarette use. For example, raising taxes on tobacco products can encourage smokers to quit and deter others from taking up the habit, Cui noted.