By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Fewer middle and high school students are vaping, according to data released Thursday, the first time numbers have dropped since 2011, when e-cigarettes were first included in the governmental report.

However, e-cigarettes remain the most used tobacco product by middle and high school students, surpassing traditional cigarettes, according to the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey. More than 20 percent of high school students and 7 percent of middle school students are still using tobacco regularly, said the report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data show that 3.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2016, and half used two or more types of products. Just under 2.2 million students smoked e-cigarettes, or vaping as it is commonly called, in 2016. That’s down from 3 million in 2015. Students who smoked cigarettes totaled 1.43 million in 2016, down slightly from 1.63 million in 2015.

Last year, then-Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a report dubbing e-cigarettes a “public health threat.” The report stressed the importance of rigorously regulating such products at the federal level by: Raising and enforcing minimum age-of-sale laws for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes; including e-cigarettes in smoke-free policies; monitoring e-cigarette marketing; conducting media campaigns to educate the public about the harms of e-cigarettes among young people; and widening research efforts related to e-cigarettes.

The agency acknowledged such public health messaging, as well as interventions like smokefree initiatives and tobacco taxes were reflected in the population patterns of use.

“Far too many young people are still using tobacco products, so we must continue to prioritize proven strategies to protect our youth from this preventable health risk,” said CDC Acting Director Dr. Anne Scuchat in a statement.

Nearly nine out of 10 smokers started by age 18, according to the Surgeon General’s 2012 report on youth and smoking.

Eleven percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes within the past month; 8 percent reported using cigarettes; 7.7 percent smoked cigars; 5.8 percent used smokeless tobacco; 4.8 percent used hookahs; 1.4 percent used pipe tobacco; and less than 1 percent used bidis.

Tobacco products used by middle school students within the past month were: E-cigarettes at 4.3 percent; cigarettes at 2.2 percent; cigars at 2.2 percent; smokeless tobacco at 2.2 percent; hookahs at 2 percent; pipe tobacco and bidis each at less than 1 percent.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration, delayed May compliance deadlines contained in the “Deeming Rule,”, which gave the agency jurisdiction over products made or derived from tobacco, including e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookah tobacco for three months.

American Heart Association Chief Executive  Nancy Brown said the e-cigarette use is promising, but funding for CDC prevention and cessation programs and the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund that “played an important part in this historic decline” could be slashed or eliminated under President Trumps’ budget.

“Today’s survey findings show that this funding is critically needed and must remain strong in FY18, so CDC programs that educate the public on the harms of tobacco can continue full steam ahead,” said Brown.