Vaping is the use of an electronic cigarette—a device which heats water, along with a flavor, nicotine and other chemicals, to a boiling point to allow inhalation of the vapor.
The JUUL device, introduced in 2015 and now leading the market with over 40% of all sales of vaping products, is a special hit with teens. They find the devices to be discrete, and come ready to use, packaged with multiple flavors – mint, tobacco, mango, crème brulee and fruit.
Like other e-cigarettes, JUUL is very accessible. Speedway and other tobacco retailers conveniently offer discounts and rebates. Though a consumer must be 18 years of age to purchase tobacco legally at a retail store, purchasing these products online is easy for anyone with a credit card, including teens. The law requires tobacco websites to ask users to self-verify they are over the age of 18 by clicking a box on the entry page. Social media has no such oversight.
Sites such as Instagram and YouTube serve as platforms for online vape-trick displays, encouraging electronic cigarette use.
E-cigs aren’t just easier to purchase; they’re also easier to conceal.
On Twitter, teens post about their usage in school. The most brazen of them fire up their e-cigarettes while the teachers’ backs are turned. Snapchat is full of kids in locker rooms or school bathrooms showing off tricks.
In fact, according to the CDC, high school students use e-cigarettes more than adults do.
E-cigarette producers ignore absolutely everything ever agreed to around smoking advertisements in the Master Settlement of 1998. Vaping ads commonly include misleading and targeted messages, peddling everything from fake health claims to kid-friendly candy flavors and “back to school” sales. E-cigarettes show up in movies, on television shows, and in radio ads.
The real question is, ‘Is vaping better than using no tobacco products?’ And the answer is no.
Since e-cigarettes have not been around long enough for scientific (and peer-reviewed) studies, we must view all suggestions that use is not dangerous with a high degree of skepticism.
E-cigarettes renormalize smoking, which has become less and less socially acceptable over the past 20 years. Though many advocates cite emerging reports vaping can help smokers quit, in fact, most adult smokers are dual users (both cigarettes and e-cigs).
Keep in mind, this argument is traditional tobacco consumers switching to e-cigs may smoke less, not that teens starting with e-cigs won’t switch to tobacco or other smoking. For teens, vaping potentially acts as a gateway to cigarettes.
Some suggest the use of e-cigarettes by young people might “protect” them from using cigarettes. There is no evidence to support this claim.
A study published last year in Pediatrics magazine asked 808 students if they used e-cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes in the past month, returning each year between 2013 and 2015 to ask again. The first year, 8.9% of students used a vape pen and 4.8% of students smoked cigarettes in the last month. Those who used e-cigarettes were 7 times more likely to smoke cigarettes by the second survey, and almost 4 times more likely by the third survey.
In Indiana, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports 8.7% of high school students smoke but 10.5 % use e-cigarettes. However, NPR interviewed students for a story this past December, in which one student claimed 50-60% of her friends use JUUL.
The CDC says nicotine exposure during adolescence causes addiction and harms the developing brain. The use of vaping juice leads to a dependence on nicotine (which is in most e-juices). Users may find over time e-cigarette use not meeting their growing addiction needs.
The Truth Initiative (a national tobacco prevention counter-marketing group) reports:
• 25% of 15-24 year olds recognize a JUUL device when shown a photo of the product;
• Kids know using the device as “JUULing,” meaning this product is so distinctive; it is its own category; and,
• 63% of JUUL users do not know this product always contains nicotine.
Also, evidence suggests e-cigarette use is linked to alcohol use and other substance use. Modified e-cigarette products can deliver other drugs, like marijuana.
Smoking bans, however, do reduce smoking. Where comprehensive bans are in place, users have higher rates of quit attempts and lower rates of relapse. We encourage all communities, workplaces, schools, multi-unit housing properties, and venues include e-cigarettes in no-smoking policies.