Teens & Vaping: What You Need to Know

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In 2015, more than 25% of students in grades 6 through 12 and more than 33% of young adults had tried e-cigarettes.[1] This number shows no signs of slowing as emerging research indicates an uptick in use by teens as the dangers of e-cigarettes remain largely unknown. We’ve written before that most tobacco use begins in young adulthood, and about the risks of smoking at this young age. Studies indicate e-cigarette use presents an equally troubling trend that demands further research.

What Are E-Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes came on the market several years ago as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes made from tobacco. Also known a e-cigarettes, vapes, and vape pens, these battery-operated devices allow users to inhale an aerosol that typically (but not always) contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals like propylene glycol.[2] Some e-cigarette brands are designed to resemble real cigarettes while others may look more like a USB stick. As of 2014, there were nearly 500 brands of e-cigarettes on the market.[3] Brands like JUUL have exploded onto the market with a flashy, high-tech appearance and high nicotine delivery through their use of nicotine salt e-liquid formulations.[4]

Teens and E-Cigarettes

Many kids and adults perceive e-cigarettes as less harmful than tobacco. While they may be less damaging to teen bodies than inhaling tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still deliver harmful chemicals in their so-called “vapor.”[5] Their use also can lead to a habit of smoking traditional cigarettes: 30.7% of e-cigarette users started smoking (tobacco products) within six months while only 8.1% of non-users began smoking in the same time frame.[6]

And the use of these devices is more prevalent than cigarettes, perhaps due to a lack of understanding the dangers. According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3.6% of 8th-graders used cigarettes in the past month versus 9.5% using e-cigarettes. For 10th-graders, 6.3% smoked while 14% used e-cigarettes. By 12th grade, the numbers climb to 11.4% of students who have smoked in the last 30 days and 16.2% who have vaped.[7]

Our Pride Surveys Questionnaire for Grades 6-12 Standard Report from 2016-17 revealed that while more than 94% of students in 6th-12th grade had not smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days, 4% still used tobacco every week.[8] In this same report, 66% of students said their friends never use tobacco while 6% said they use tobacco a lot.[9]

In another survey of children aged 12 to 17 years, the majority who reported ever experimenting with tobacco said they started with a flavored product, and 85% of current e-cigarette users aged 12-17 use some form of flavoring.[10],.[11]

Minors are federally banned from purchasing (or being sold) vaporizers, e-juice, and other related products and states across the U.S. have raised the age to buy cigarettes or vaping products to 21. However, none of us would be surprised to find that teens are still getting their hands on these products and using them. In fact, flavored non-cigarette tobacco products like JUUL seem to be designed to appeal to youth with eye-catching packaging and popular flavors like mint, vanilla, cherry and piña colada. According to JUUL, a single pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.[12]

Research on Teens and Vaping

Because e-cigarettes are still relatively new, there is little information on student perception, use, and prevalence in schools and communities. To begin to gather more data, the Pride Surveys Plus added two categories to the existing core measures including prescription opioids as well as e-cigarettes in 2018. Our Pride Surveys Questionnaire for grades 6-12 still contains the updated Core Measures required by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for their Drug-Free Communities Grant. Community coalitions and other grantees can use this survey to provide data for funding applications and evaluation. The survey is also compatible with many other grants including CARA, STOP ACT, Tobacco Cessation, and more.

The benefit of choosing a survey company is that we take the guesswork out of the surveying process to ask the difficult questions. For more than thirty years, Pride Surveys has been helping schools collect data on teen substance abuse perceptions and drug use trends. We offer multiple drug-free community survey options as well as student risk perception surveys designed to help assess teen substance abuse and risk, including our student surveys for grades 6-12, and our supplemental surveys like the Drug-Free Community Survey Supplement. The Pride Survey Plus for Grades 6-12 will allow you to obtain a better understanding of your school climate and the safety of your students. Please contact us online or call (800) 279-6361 for more information.

Setting a good example is also essential when it comes to preventing smoking. Quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health as it almost immediately improves your lung, heart, and brain function. If you need help quitting smoking, please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

 

 

 


[1] “Get the Facts: E-Cigarettes.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/getthefacts.html

[2] “What Are Electronic Cigarettes?” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes

[3] “What Are Electronic Cigarettes?” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes

[4] “E-Cigarettes: Facts, Stats and Regulations.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

[5] “E-Cigarettes: Facts, Stats and Regulations.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

[6] “Teens & E-Cigarettes: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/teens-e-cigarettes

[7] “Teens & E-Cigarettes: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/teens-e-cigarettes

[8] “Pride Surveys Questionnaire for Grades 6-12 Standard Report 2016-17.”

[9] “Pride Surveys Questionnaire for Grades 6-12 Standard Report 2016-17.”

[10] “Flavored Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and high School Students – United States 2014.” Retrieved December 30 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6438a2.htm

[11] “Get the Facts.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/getthefacts.html

[12] “Recognition, Use, and Perceptions of JUUL Among Youth and Young Adults.” Retrieved 30 December 2018 at https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/28/1/115

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