Pixie sticks, skittles, gum, fruit snacks—they all come in a rainbow of flavors. So does nicotine. And we’re seeing how easily young people are being drawn into nicotine addiction thanks to flavors marketed as candy, fruit and dessert. In fact, vaping is being sold much like Mountain Dew in the 1990s…totally radical, dude! Not! A recent report took a closer look at the impact at the surge of vape usage among adolescents in the United States. Read below for a brief summary of the study’s findings:
- Increases in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 were the largest ever recorded in the past 43 years for any adolescent substance use outcome in the U.S.
- The percentage of 12th grade students who reported vaping nicotine in the past 30 days nearly doubled, rising from 11% to 21%. This ten-percentage point increase is twice as large as the previous record for largest-ever increase among past 30-day outcomes in 12th
It’s no coincidence that the greatest increase of substance use in decades occurred as vaping has become mainstreamed. An initial “perk” of vaping was the perception that long-time smokers were prolonging their lives by switching to the vaporizer method to intake nicotine. Perhaps this “perk” has been a boon for the old timey smokers, who used cartoons to interest children in smoking, but the vape method has made nicotine intake easier than ever for young people. Furthermore, the usual scare tactics have yet to make their mark on the youth:
“The policies and procedures in place to prevent youth vaping clearly haven’t worked,” said Richard Miech, the lead author of the study. “We need new policies and strategies, such as the FDA’s actions announced last month to curb the sales of the JUUL-branded vaping devices. Because the vaping industry is quickly evolving, new, additional, vaping-specific strategies may well be needed in the years ahead in order to keep vaping devices out of the hands of youth.”
But why are teens so eager to vape? For one, the danger just isn’t apparent. Vaping requires no fire, no smoke and therefore no alarms and no surprises: the vape pen is simple to pocket and get past family, teachers and friends. Another allure is the aroma: cotton candy flavored vaping means a teenager merely smells of a carnival when she’s done vaping for the night. The study reports that “factors that make vaping so attractive to youth include its novelty and the easy concealability of the latest vaping devices, which better allows youth to vape without adults knowing about it.”
Not just nicotine is being vaped in record numbers by teenagers today: the study reports that Marijuana vaping has increased as well. Inhale these statistics:
- Percentage of 12th grade youth who vaped marijuana within 30 days of the survey significantly increased to 7.5% from 4.9% the previous year.
- Percentage of 10th grade marijuana vaping significantly increased to 7.0% from 4.3% the previous year.
- In 8th grade marijuana vaping also significantly increased: 2.6% as compared to 1.6% the year before.
Vaping weed is just flat-out easier for young people in terms of usability, portability and ability to maintain secrecy, reports the author of the study: “Vaping is making substantial inroads among adolescents, no matter the substance vaped,” said Miech. “In 2018 we saw substantial increases in vaping across all substances, including nicotine, marijuana, and adolescents who reported vaping ‘just flavoring.’ Factors that make vaping so attractive to youth include its novelty and the easy concealability of the latest vaping devices, which better allows youth to vape without adults knowing about it.”
Vaping is a fad: it won’t be long before the health risks are exposed. But until then, take a look at some key available resources to keep informed and alert. Just because vaping is easy doesn’t mean it’s easy to quit: to vape is to be hooked, and it’s the hook that brings teens back.
Miech, R. A., Schulenberg, J. E., Johnston, L. D., Bachman, J. G., O’Malley, P. M., & Patrick, M. E. (December 17, 2018). “National Adolescent Drug Trends in 2018.” Monitoring the Future: Ann Arbor, MI.