A vaping epidemic began with the explosion of youth using electronic devices or vape between 2015-2020. When reports showed millions of youth were using e-cigarettes, the US and the entire world sat up and took notice of this new tobacco product.
Vaping was everything that new users of all products like- sleek, easy to use, affordable, disposable, and discreet. Wrapped in the original advertisement of a “smoking cessation tool” it seemed harmless, maybe even helpful. But it wasn’t. As user rates of traditional tobacco declined, this product was perfectly targeted at a new replacement generation of users- our youth.
According to a 2019 survey by the US Food and Drug Administration 5.4 million US middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. That same survey said that nearly 1 million youth used the product daily with 1.6 million using 20 days or more in the last month.
So is the vaping epidemic over? In 2020 3.6 million youth reported use in the past 30 days (National Youth Tobacco Survey NYTS and USFDA) Yes, that is a decline but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield MD, stated that “youth e-cigarette use remains an epidemic, and the CDC is committed to supporting efforts to protect youth from this preventable health risk”.
While these numbers may look promising, the switch from these devices to disposable vape grew exponentially. Since 2019 use of disposable vapes in youth e- cigarette users were up 1000% among high schoolers and 400% among middle schoolers according to the CDC. Students consistently have been drawn to flavors and devices that are covert and now disposable.
For all these reasons, communities, parents, and youth must continue to focus on those things that will help reduce the use of these and all tobacco products.
Research is still young on all the side effects the use of vape may have, but early studies tell a lot. The nicotine contained in vape is highly addictive. It can harm the developing adolescent brain. Youth who use at even moderate levels report feelings of anxiousness, inability to sleep, attention and impulse control issues, mood swings and more. Long term effects have yet to be finalized, but there is certainty that many of the compounds used in vape (especially flavorings) have been linked to lung disease.
Do you want to know more about vape? The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has developed a website www.913vapefree.org whose mission is to provide accurate information and attempt to eliminate or reduce the use of vape and vape products in the 913- area code.