Silver lining found in pandemic: Fewer teens are vaping

October 14, 2021

It turns out that the pandemic has reaped one unexpected benefit: As teens were kept home more often, their use of electronic cigarettes dropped by nearly 40 percent, a new report finds.

“They found a dramatic drop from last year, and it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t represent a real decrease in use among high school and middle school students,” Dr. Nancy Rigotti of Harvard University tells the Associated Press.

The survey found that 11 percent of high school students and less than 3 percent of middle school students said they had recently used e-cigarettes and other vaping products.

The year before, almost 20 percent of high school students and nearly 5 percent of middle schoolers had used e-cigarettes, the AP reports.

Why the decline?

There are a few reasons for the decline in teen vaping:

1. Teens often vape socially

U.S. health officials said these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but the decrease in vaping in 2021 is probably real and makes sense because teens often vape socially, one expert told the AP.

2. Teen vaping was already on the decline

Before the pandemic, teen vaping was already on the decline as federal laws increased the age for the purchase of all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21, the AP reports. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also banned most flavored e-cigarette cartridges, which were driving the popularity of vaping among teens.

3. Deaths and illnesses

Some teens may have also reacted to the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths from vaping liquids that contained THC, the active chemical in marijuana, the AP notes.

However, since teens are now back at school, the use of e-cigarettes may rebound.

“E-cigarette use among youth remains a serious public health concern,” CDC specialist Dr. Karen Hacker says in an FDA news release on the survey. “It’s critical we continue working together to protect young people from the risks associated with tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes.” The FDA is considering more limits on vaping. The agency plans to decide which e-cigarette brands and products can stay on the market and which must be removed, according to the AP.

The agency has not yet ruled on major manufacturers that comprise most of the market, including Juul and Vuse, but other brands are replacing these as most popular with teens, the government report says.

The top brand for high school students is a disposable e-cigarette called Puff Bar that comes in flavors like pink lemonade, strawberry and mango. These disposable flavored e-cigarettes are not regulated as tightly as Juul, which comes in menthol and tobacco only. Among students, only 6 percent regularly use Juul, the AP reports.

It is important for teens and parents to realize that vaping sets the stage for life-threatening and dangerous complications down the road as well as addiction.

The FDA notes that if you spot any of the following, report it. This will prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to teens:

• Sales to minors
• Flavored cigarette sales
• Illegal marketing and advertising – The Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA the ability to regulate certain marketing and advertising activities by the tobacco industry, including:
• Describing tobacco products as “light,” “mild,” or “low” – or claiming a product is safer or less harmful without an FDA order
• Distributing t-shirts or other promotional or novelty items with brand names of cigarette or smokeless tobacco products
• Sponsoring events using the brand name of a tobacco product
• Distribution of free samples of tobacco products except in limited circumstances
• Placement of cigarette or smokeless tobacco product vending machines in prohibited areas (or providing access to self-service or direct access of tobacco products in prohibited areas)
• Sale of cigarettes in packages of less than 20.

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