In an era where traditional tobacco smokers have been banished to their homes and safe distances from buildings in almost all communities, nicotine vaporizers, once a smoking cessation tool, have now become the primary mode of nicotine consumption among young adults.
Nicotine vaporizers, or “vapes,” often contain much higher concentrations of nicotine than traditional tobacco products and prolonged use can lead to addiction, lung disease, and experimentation with other drugs. Peer pressure is one of the primary ways that kids start vaping. Most teens see vape or e-cigarette use on social media, at parties, or even publicly displayed on school property.
Despite what tobacco companies would like your high school student to believe, vapes are highly addictive. Although they are a safer alternative to cigarettes, vape e-cigarette use among teens is a public health emergency and teens should be aware of the risks.
There is no form of nicotine product that is safe for youth consumption.
FDA Warns Firms for Selling Illegal E-cigarettes
On November 16th, 2022, the FDA released a statement identifying five companies that, despite the FDA’s previous enforcement policy on unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes that appeal to children, continue to market “vapes” in the shape of cartoon characters, candies and deserts, and in a multitude of flavors that appeal to children and teens.
These vapes are brightly colored, inexpensive, and decorated with graphics that are easily recognizable by children and teens. Not only are these products made to look like toys and food items, but they’re also continuing to decrease in size, making them easily concealable.
These product designs transform vapes into items that allow teens and children to express an identity in choosing which vape design to purchase. In transforming vapes into collector’s items, these e-cigarette manufacturers are promoting peer pressure and further e-cigarette use among teens.
How Common is Youth Vaping?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new study in October 2022 to show teen vaping statistics, electronic cigarette usage, and e-cigarette products used by high school students and middle school students.
- 9% of middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past month. That’s three times higher than the percentage of adults who used e-cigarettes.
- 13% of high school students and 4% of middle schoolers use some form of tobacco or nicotine product, with electronic cigarettes as the method of choice.
- 85% of nicotine use is vape-based due to enticing flavor options in products like JUUL, Elf Bars, Flum, and Puff Bars.
MORE: Explore facts about nicotine products and vaping nicotine statistics in your state.
Why High School Students are Vaping
The youth vaping trend is powered by several influencing factors. Peer pressure, marketing, misunderstanding, and experimentation.
Unfortunately, vaping is viewed as a cool thing to do by many young people. This point of view has been spread and popularized for over seven years now through channels like social media, television, other forms of media, and peer-to-peer influence. Even if students know the risks of vaping nicotine, they might feel like they need to take risks or fit in.
We live in a world where marketing research is done to see what kind of cigarettes students as young as middle schoolers will prefer. Over the years tobacco and nicotine companies have shown time and time again that they will put profits ahead of public health, even when it affects our children. The health consequences of vaping are overridden by appealing ads on television, social media channels, and pop culture.
Over $22.5 million dollars is spent daily on nicotine and tobacco advertising, which results in $25 spent per person in the U.S. Much of this advertising takes place on social media platforms, where young adults and teens spend hours of time.
Tobacco and nicotine companies also offer discounts and promotional opportunities for retail outlets to make the products easier to obtain. Every year, $5.7 billion is offered in discounts alone. This is just one of many tactics that these companies employ to influence the minds of children. Half of all students saw e-cigarette marketing in a store, and 40% saw e-cigarette ads online or on social media.
Misunderstanding Nicotine Vaping
Many teens are manipulated to think that vaping isn’t as dangerous as smoking. On top of that, parents don’t always know their teen is vaping because it can be done very discreetly and doesn’t smell.
Cigarettes can be just as dangerous as other nicotine products. Both products contain nicotine, which is a substance that is dangerous at face value, and are especially risky in teenagers who have brains that won’t reach full maturity until their mid-20s. If that wasn’t enough, e-cigarette use usually leads to smoking cigarettes within one year.
While there might be fewer chemicals in vapes than in traditional cigarettes, there’s also not enough known about the chemicals in vape pens to see the long-term effects. Any product that introduces nicotine into the system can result in nicotine addiction.
Others may believe that because the legal age to purchase vapes was raised to 21, there’s less of a risk of children vaping than there used to be. Unfortunately, despite new laws, many retailers don’t check the age of customers. Some teenagers will get a legal-aged friend or sibling to buy the product for them. Many websites exist that don’t verify identity during a sale. Teenagers can buy or share vape products with peers.
Teenagers are biologically inclined to take risks, push boundaries, and try new things, even dangerous things. This is part of the reason for the prevalence of underage drinking, prescription drug abuse, and even car accidents. When factoring in the billions of marketing dollars, the variety of fruity flavors, the ease of access, the ubiquity, the peer influence, it’s no wonder why nicotine vapes are so popular.
Why Is Vaping Still Legal?
Vapes are legal to purchase for those 21 and older. Vapes are not legal for those under 21, but the ease of access and social pressure among young people combined with the discreteness of the act, vaping among teens remains an ongoing challenge.
- 2009: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act bans flavored cigarettes. At the time, it only had oversight of nicotine produced from tobacco, not synthetic tobacco, which led to the new market explosion of vapes and e-cigarettes.
- 2016: FDA starts regulating e-cigarettes.
- December 2019: The legal age to purchase tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21 years old.
- April 2022: FDA proposed a ban on all menthol cigarettes and cigars. Removing the appealing flavors of menthol brands can reduce the number of underage menthol smokers.
- June 2022: FDA bans all JUUL products but put the ban on hold just days later to review more information provided by JUUL. The ban is not overturned; it’s just on hold.
- September 2022: JUUL pays nearly $440 million across 33 states for marketing to teenagers.
Although efforts are being made at the local, and national levels to limit and eventually eliminate synthetic tobacco from being accessible to those under 21, there is more work to be done.
The sad truth behind it is that the e-cigarette and tobacco industries are comprised of massive corporations that have the influence and resources to lobby government regulators and draw out many legal battles.
How Can Parents Tell if a Child is Vaping?
There are plenty of resources available for parents to learn about the dangers of vaping and be involved in the fight to keep it out of the hands of teenagers:
- Keep up with FDA rulings and bans
- Review CDC research about vaping among teens and marketing that influences teen vaping.
- Join the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Parents who use nicotine should also take part in a cessation program to remove the influence of nicotine addiction on their children. Teenagers are three times more likely to try nicotine products if their parents regularly use nicotine. They are also twice as likely to become addicted to nicotine.
How Can I Get Vaping Addition Help?
Clear Behavioral Health can help with any stage of education or cessation for those dealing with vaping in their teenage years or otherwise, and we can help parents formulate a plan to help at home.
Being educated about vaping and its dangers is the best first step you can take. Call Clear Behavioral Health today and learn about our programs.