The Current Status of Youth Vaping

One out of five high school students and one out of 20 middle school students reported past-month use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) commonly called e-cigarettes or vapes, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Mortality & Morbidity Weekly Report of February 15, 2019.

Why do these products appeal to so many students? One reason is that devices have evolved from earlier cigarette look-alikes that most youth found objectionable, to sleek, modern electronic gadgets that many kids don’t associate with tobacco or cigarettes. Another reason is that producers promoted the appealing flavors and minimized or ignored the nicotine content in marketing. 

NBC News reported in December 2018 that more than 25 percent of youth who vaped were unaware that most flavored vape products contained nicotine. JUUL, by far the most popular brand among students, offered no nicotine-free vape products. JUUL used nicotine salts to greatly reduce the irritation to users’ airways and lungs caused by the inhaled aerosols.

A third reason for the popularity of vaping is that many students see it as a cool social ice-breaker that gives them a ready topic of conversation and an aid to making new friends. Furthermore, they are easy to conceal from teachers and other adults and don’t give off the telltale aroma of combustible tobacco.

While recent changes in federal law banned companies from selling most flavors in devices like JUULs and raised the age at which minors can purchase tobacco products, problems remain. The flavor ban does not apply to devices that use consumer-refillable pods to hold the vape liquids. And, access to the products by minors remains widespread.

Scientists will continue to study the health effects of vaping on youth and adults. We won’t have clear understanding of those effects and the cost to society of this new, addictive technology for years to come. In the meantime, PACE Coalition encourages those who don’t smoke or vape not to start. For those who are struggling with dependence or addiction to tobacco products including vaping, help can be found by calling the Nevada Tobacco Users Helpline at 1 (800) QUIT-NOW, 1 (800) 784-8669

PACE Coalition is a grant-funded nonprofit organization that works with public and private partners to prevent the initiation of substance use and promote the general health and well-being of communities in Elko, Eureka, and White Pine counties.