As millions of people in the US have begun vaping over the last few years, many have been oblivious to the fact that this issue parallels the rise of smoking in the country. This is especially true when it comes to teens and vaping.
Over the last two decades, the use of tobacco in teens has significantly decreased. However, with the introduction of e-cigarettes and flavored vape, millions of teens have picked up the habit, most of whom had never used a traditional cigarette.
How serious is the problem?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults. However, many companies, particularly Juul Labs, have made these products enticing for young kids thanks to the flavors. For years, it has not been uncommon to walk into a store and see the following e-cigarette flavors available:
- Strawberry watermelon
- Blue raspberry
- Pink lemonade
- Bubble gum
- Cotton candy
- Other fruit flavors
According to the CDC, 81% of current youth e-cigarette users said that the flavors were their primary reason for using them. While the kids may think the flavors are why they keep buying e-cigarettes, it is the nicotine that is the problem. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that from 2017 to 2018, there was a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among high schoolers and a 48% increase among middle schoolers.
Higher nicotine concentration
One specific area in which e-cigarettes cause concern is the level of nicotine being inhaled by users. On their own website, Juul Labs claims that one Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as 20 traditional cigarettes. It is not uncommon to see vape products contain anywhere from 2.4% to 5% nicotine solutions, many of which are specifically designed to enter into the bloodstream faster.
One of the most shocking statistics provided by the CDC is that 66% of Juul users aged 15 to 24 do not know that Juul vape products always contain nicotine. That means that they think they are simply enjoying the flavors when, in reality, they are harming their bodies with an abundance of nicotine designed to keep them addicted to the products.
Youth health risks are real
The health risks associate with vaping in teens and young adults are serious. The nicotine in these products can lead to:
- slow brain development in teens that affects their memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood
- an increased risk of other types of addiction later in life
As we have learned over the last few months, vaping can lead to serious lung disease. Thousands of people across the country have been hospitalized due to vaping, and dozens have lost their lives. Recently, a 17-year-old male underwent a double lung transplant due to vape-related lung disease.
Social media targets
Most of the major e-cigarette companies have used social media to target younger users. According to one study published online in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers said that nearly 45% of Juul’s Twitter followers were between the ages of 13 and 17. While Juul says they do everything they can to prevent youth from engaging them on social media, the acting US FDA director says that “JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”