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Alcohol, Drugs, and Smoking

What's the impact of the e-cigarette and vaping industry on kids?

Tobacoo use may be down, but nicotine use is way up. Why? Vaping. And guess who's behind this dismaying trend? Big Tobacco. That's right. The same folks who hooked millions on smoking are now trying to get more people to vape. And though they say they aren't targeting kids, clearly fun flavors and cool-looking vape pens like the Juul are currently being sold without much regulation and without fully understanding the risks. Some of the potential hazards of the e-cig and vaping industry include: mysterious lung illnesses leading to death in some cases, acting as a gateway to cigarettes, pot, or stronger nicotine products; introducing health problems such as lung disease; and addiction.

It's no surprise that e-cigs and vapes have become trendy with kids. They have a cool, technical allure, they're endorsed by celebrities, they're cheaper than cigarette packs over the long run, and -- because they generate a lot of vapor -- users can perform smoke-blowing tricks that are much more elaborate than smoke rings. What's really scary is how much vaping content kids see online in the course of their everyday lives. A November 2019 survey conducted by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey found: 

  • Vaping is popular among teens, and it's happening regularly at school. One-third of teens (33%) say they see classmates vaping in school a few times a week or daily. More than half (54%) say they see it monthly. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) say vaping is popular among people their age where they live.
  • Most teens think vaping is as harmful as smoking. Just over half of teens (52%) say vaping is "about as harmful as smoking," while 31% say it's more harmful and 17% say it's less harmful. Among those teens who say vaping is less harmful than smoking, 43% say they've gotten messages online telling them that "vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes."
  • One in four teens first learned about vaping on social media. A plurality of teens (44%) say they first learned or heard about vaping from someone they know, while 23% first heard about it on social media, 9% from TV or a movie, and less than that from outdoor ads, in a store, on a website, on the radio, or on a podcast.
  • Vaping is common in teens' social media experiences. When thinking about their typical experience using social media, 59% of teens say they're likely to see a post that mentions or shows vaping.

E-cigarettes and vapes reduce exposure to some of the harmful chemicals of tobacco cigarettes, but no one really knows the impact of these products on kids' health. To help your kid avoid these products, try this:

  • Explain that not much is known about these products' risks -- and they could make you seriously ill or kill you.
  • Tell them that it's important that they wait until their brains and bodies have developed fully before they consume something that is potentially harmful.
  • Point out that nicotine is highly addictive.
  • Have your pediatrician talk to your kid about the dangers of ingesting any chemical you don't know much about.
  • Advocate against Big Tobacco and the vaping industry.