E-cigarettes were the most common type of tobacco product used among U.S. middle and high school students in 2016. Why are youth using these products in the first place?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration examined self-reported reasons for using e-cigarettes among middle and high school students using data from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The report found that, among students who used e-cigarettes in 2016, the most common reasons were:

  1. Because a friend or family member used them (39 percent)
  2. The availability of flavors, such as mint, candy, fruit or chocolate (31 percent)
  3. The belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other forms of tobacco, such as cigarettes (17.1 percent)

That almost a third of students — 31 percent — reported the availability of flavors as a reason they used e-cigarettes is no surprise considering tobacco companies market flavored products to attract youth and young adults. Research shows that young people are more likely to try flavored e-cigarettes and believe that they are less harmful than tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.

Other reasons youth reported for using e-cigarettes include that they are easier to get than other tobacco products, cost less than other tobacco products and can be used in areas where other tobacco products, such as cigarettes, are not allowed. Some students reported that they used e-cigarettes to try to quit using other tobacco products, or because famous people on TV or in movies use them.

Youth vaping and using e-cigarettes is a public health concern.

After a year of decline, vaping prevalence among teens increased in 2017. The rise in youth vaping and using e-cigarettes is a public health concern for several reasons.

The 2016 surgeon general's report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults concluded that e-cigarettes have the potential to be addictive to some users, and that early nicotine addiction can harm brain development and alter nerve cell functioning. Other research shows that e-cigarette use increases the risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults, and that young adults who use e-cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking cigarettes within 18 months, compared with their peers who do not vape.

A recent report on the public health consequence of e-cigarettes suggests that, due to the variety of e-cigarette devices available, consumers can’t determine differences between products and their relative harms. That’s why Truth Initiative® is pushing the FDA to reconsider its decision to delay fully regulating e-cigarettes until 2022 and calling on the administration to fully regulate e-cigarettes soon. The sooner the FDA can review e-cigarettes, the sooner consumers can know which products are less harmful and best deliver nicotine.

In the meantime, the surgeon general recommends continued efforts to prevent and reduce e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, such as incorporating e-cigarettes into smoke-free indoor air policies, restricting access to e-cigarettes in retail environments and establishing specific package requirements like minimum pack sizes and health warnings.

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