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%, a new report finds.
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 Associated Press.
“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, who was not involved in the research, told the AP.
The survey found that 11% of high school students and less than 3% of middle school students said they had recently used e-cigarettes and other vaping products.
The year before, almost 20% of high school students and nearly 5% of middle schoolers had used e-cigarettes, the AP reported.
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 reported. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also banned most flavored e-cigarette cartridges, which were driving the popularity of vaping among teens.
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 noted.
More surveys are needed to confirm these findings, Rigotti said. Since teens are now back at school, the use of e-cigarettes may rebound.
However, “I’m sure schools are working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen,” she added.
Government officials estimate that about 2 million U.S. teens are vaping, a number they say is still far too high.
“E-cigarette use among youth remains a serious public health concern,” CDC specialist Dr. Karen Hacker said 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, the AP reported.
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 said.
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% regularly use Juul, the AP reported.
The findings were published in the Oct. 1 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Visit the FDA for more on the dangers of vaping.
SOURCES: Associated Press; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Sept. 30, 2021
Robin Foster and Steven Reinberg
Smoking: How E-cigarettes and Vaping Affect Your Body
What Is Vaping?
It’s when you use a handheld tube, or tank, attached to a mouthpiece that makes a vapor you inhale. There are different types, such as vape pens, e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, and mods. But they all heat liquid chemicals (“e-juice”) into a mist you breathe in like a cigarette or pipe.
Is Vaping Safe?
We don’t know all the risks. But in the U.S., several people have died and hundreds had lung injuries linked to vaping. Many used marijuana products, but not all. Until we have the answers, the CDC says:
- Youths, young adults, and pregnant women shouldn’t vape.
- If you don’t vape, don’t start.
- If you vape, don’t buy devices or liquids off the street.
- Don’t change a vaping device or add anything to it that the maker didn’t intend.
What’s in the E-Liquid?
The FDA regulates e-liquids sold in stores, but not ones you buy on the street. The liquid, or “e-juice” can contain marijuana or other drugs. But nicotine, which is known to be addictive, is the most common active ingredient. The liquid has other chemicals that may be dangerous. Two of them — diacetyl and formaldehyde — are linked to lung disease and cancer. Researchers are looking at the health effects of other e-juice ingredients.
Some e-juice is flavored. Even without nicotine, these flavorings can cause DNA damage or kill cells that line your blood vessels. One study showed that cinnamon and menthol flavors were especially harmful. Young people may be drawn to vaping by sweet, candy-like flavors and smells. To help stop this, several U.S. states have banned the sale of flavored vaping liquid. The federal government also plans to ban their sale nationwide.
Toxic Metals: Surprising Byproduct
Besides chemicals, researchers have found levels of metals in e-cig vapor that may not be safe. These include lead, chromium, and nickel, as well as the metal-like element arsenic. Studies suggest that most of these metals are released by the coils inside the device that heat the liquid. Breathing them in is linked to lung, liver, immune system, and brain damage, as well as several cancers.
Nicotine and Your Body
Nicotine in e-liquid goes quickly from your lungs to your bloodstream. It causes your body to release adrenaline, a hormone that raises your pulse, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This could play a role in raising your heart attack odds. You may also feel more alert and need to cough. If you vape marijuana, the high will be stronger than if you smoke the same amount. You may feel more anxious. Your eyes and mouth will be drier, too.
Is Vaping Addictive?
Nicotine is highly addictive. So you’re likely to get hooked if you vape regularly. Young people are especially at risk of becoming addicted. Because their brains are growing so quickly, new habits take root very fast, and they “learn” to be dependent easily. Nicotine can also wire the brain for addiction to other drugs, like cocaine and alcohol.
Vaping and Your Heart
Studies show vaping may make heart disease more likely. Nicotine boosts plaque buildup in your arteries, which makes it harder for blood to reach your vital organs. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Smoking marijuana raises your heart rate, which makes your ticker work harder. Vaping the drug strengthens this effect. Just being around people who are vaping is a risk because you can breathe in the vapor.
Vaping and Your Lungs
You might cough and wheeze. If you have asthma, vaping can make it worse. Scientists think the chemicals often found in e-juice can cause other serious lung problems. A chemical called acrolein, for example, is mainly used to kill weeds. It can cause sudden lung injury and trigger serious respiratory illnesses like COPD and lung cancer.
Vaping and Your Brain
Your brain continues to grow until age 25. Before then, it’s highly sensitive to the effects of e-cigarette chemicals, especially nicotine. It can disrupt your brain growth, with lasting effects on your learning and thinking skills. It’s also linked to depression and schizophrenia.
Vaping and Your Immune System
Scientists already know that nicotine and marijuana can weaken your body’s ability to fight germs. Research shows that vaping is especially bad for your immune system.