The last thing U.S. teenagers need is another dangerous substance to get their hands on, experiment with, and possibly get addicted to. That’s exactly what is happening, however, with the epidemic of E-cigarettes. An alarming number of middle and high school students across the country are trying “vaping” and liking it.” Vaping is the term given to the inhalation of electronic cigarettes, and it’s quickly becoming a dangerous trend that government agencies at the federal, state, and city level are stepping in to stop.
What is an E-Cig?
Not sure what an e-cig is, exactly? According to the truthinitiative.org, “Electronic nicotine delivery systems go by many names…e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, mods, and tanks are also common terms. Most recently, new products, such as JUUL, have created brand-centric terms for product use ‘juuling’.”
E-cigarettes are devices that operate by heating a liquid solution to a high enough temperature so that it produces an aerosol that is inhaled. E-liquid solutions usually include nicotine, flavoring, and a humectant, such as propylene glycol, to retain moisture and create an aerosol when heated.
While the FDA has approved many of the flavorings and humectants in e-liquids for oral consumption, they have not bee approved for inhalation due to the lack of research regarding the safety of these substances when inhaled. While using an e-cigarette is often called vaping, the devices produce an aerosol, not a vapor, so it’s a bit of misnomer.
Unlike vapor, which is simply a substance in gas form, the aerosol from an e-cigarette contains tiny chemical particles from both the liquid solution and the device. A recently published “Truth Initiative” study found that among current youth and young adult JUUL users, only 37 percent knew that the product always contains nicotine.
Since last year, vaping has increased nearly 80% among high school students and 50% among middle school students in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report also showed that more than one-quarter of current users of e-cigs vaped at least 20 of the last 30 days. The study revealed that from March to May 2018, the number of current middle school users who had vaped in the last thirty days increased by 48%; the number of high school users who had vaped in the last 30 days increased 78%. The number of students who vape in middle and high school has risen nearly 1.5 million in the last year and not totals 3.6 million regular users of some form of e-cigs. The United States Surgeon General cited a 900% increase in the number of students who vape during the years 2011-2016.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (IDA) has reported that:
- Teens are more likely to use e-cigs than regular (combustible) cigarettes
- Twice as many males use e-cigs than females
- 30.7% of e-cig users started smoking regular cigarettes while only 8.1% of non-vapers ever started smoking combustible tobacco products
- 30% of teens think that flavoring is the only ingredient in e-cigs and 13.7% have no idea what is in the liquid they vape
- Young adults aged 18-24 are also using e-cigs at an increasing rate
Laws to Curtail Vaping
Federal laws passed in August 2018 dictate that e-cig buyers must be 18 years of age or older. Selling to someone under this age is a crime for retailers, as is giving out free samples. Retailers must ask for proof of age via identification for anyone looking under 27. And unless a vending machine is in a facility that is only for adults, e-cig vending machines are strictly prohibited. Similar state laws are also in effect in most states.
The FDA has announced it will restrict sales of flavored cartridge-based e-cig products to tobacco and vape shops, of which there are only about 100,000 in the US. Convenience stores and gas stations will no longer be able to sell the product.
The FDA also announced plans for stricter age-verification requirements for online sales. Cities are no longer waiting for a federal crackdown and are taking matters into their own hands with laws currently, or soon to be, in place.