The federal government declared youth vaping, or e-cigarette use, a nationwide epidemic. In light of these concerns and the misinformation surrounding this topic, the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida is helping educate parents, educators, pediatricians and partners on what they need to know about vaping and youth. This year’s Tobacco Free Florida Week, April 22–28, is themed E-Epidemic: Vaping and Youth.
The most popular e-cigarette brand is JUUL, a device shaped like a USB drive that is available in a variety of flavors and easy to conceal. In fact, youth are using JUUL devices inside school bathrooms and classrooms.
Here are the facts:
Youth vaping has increased dramatically across the country and in Florida. In 2018, about 25 percent of Florida high school students reported current use of electronic vaping – a 58 percent increase compared to 2017.
Youth are vaping at much higher rates compared to adults. One in four Florida high school students are vaping. Only about 4 percent of Florida adults are vaping.
The long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown. E-cigarette devices heat a liquid – usually containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals – and produce an aerosol. This aerosol, aka “vapor,” is not water. Some of the ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could also be harmful to the lungs in the long-term, according to the CDC. For example, some e-cigarette flavorings may be safe to eat but not to inhale because the gut can process more substances than the lungs.
E-cigarettes, including JUUL, typically contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Youth may be more sensitive to nicotine and feel dependent on nicotine sooner compared to adults. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod (the “liquid” refill) contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. JUUL uses nicotine salts, which can allow high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation.
The brain continues to develop until the early to mid-20s and the developing brain is more vulnerable to the negative effects of nicotine. The effects include reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders. Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.
Evidence suggests that youth who use e-cigarettes may be at greater risk of starting to smoke regular cigarettes.
“Florida has always been at the forefront of tobacco prevention and has seen steady declines in youth cigarette smoking, but dramatic increases in vaping among youth threaten to reverse that trend,” said Laura Corbin, bureau chief of Tobacco Free Florida. “We must protect future generations from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, which is critical to ending tobacco use overall. Tobacco Free Florida is your trusted source for credible and substantiated information about e-cigarettes.”
Parents and educators should advise youth of the dangers of nicotine; discourage youth tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes; and set a positive example by being tobacco free themselves. Tobacco Free Florida is taking steps to educate Floridians about this troubling epidemic through social media campaigns and an educational blog post, which can be found at tobaccofreeflorida.com/eepidemic.