E-Cigarettes: The Teenage Epidemic

Emily Torgerson  •   November 29, 2018

If you read the news, chances are you’re familiar with e-cigarettes. Available in the US since 2007, they are often seen as a way for habitual smokers to kick the habit. However, most studies show e-cigarette use does not significantly reduce cigarette use and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on the epidemic, specifically among teenagers.

E-Cigarette Statistics

  • In 2017, 11.7 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days.
  • 40 percent of young adults who use e-cigarettes were not smokers before trying them.
  • In 2015, 65.2 percent of youth who had used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days also reported using another tobacco product in the same time frame.
  • Among young adults, 40 percent of e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes. [1]

The JUUL Phenomenon

JUUL Labs, which introduced the JUUL e-cigarette in 2015, controls 68 percent [1] of the e-cigarette market and is so popular that “JUULing” has become its own verb. Although their web site states “Our mission is to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers,” the FDA has accused JUUL of introducing a new generation of youth to nicotine.

JUUL appeals to youth due to its flavor offerings like cucumber, bubblegum and mint, but most young adults don’t realize that e-cigarettes may contain even higher levels of nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. The JUULs resemble a small flash drive which makes them easy to hide from parents and school supervisors. According to the JUUL web site, one cartridge is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.

What’s Being Done About It?

In September, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned top vaping manufacturers they had 60 days to show how they could keep their products away from teenagers, otherwise their products could be pulled from stores.

Under the pressure, JUUL decided to remove its flavored e-cigarettes from stores and delete its social media accounts earlier this month. To keep with its mission of helping adults quit smoking, JUUL will still sell its tobacco, mint and menthol flavors. The FDA’s next steps are to prohibit e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations and improve age verification for online sales.

E-Cigarettes Aren’t the Answer

The FDA has approved several smoking cessation methods including prescription medications and over-the-counter products like nicotine replacement gum, lozenges and skin patches. E-cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA for smoking cessation. For healthier ways to quit smoking, visit smokefree.gov or click here to see how National CooperativeRx can help.

 

[1] Truth Initiative. “E-Cigarettes: Facts, Stats and Regulations.” Truth Initiative, Truth Initiative, 19 July 2018, truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations.