The year 2020 was one that brought a number of lasting memories. Although many of them seemed to be negative, there was a shining light of hope for the future. For the first time since 2016, data showed that vape (e-cigarette) use among teenagers had declined.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey showed a sharp decline in youth vaping (e-cigarette) use with 1.8 million fewer users than the previous year. In 2020, 19.6% of high school students vaped (27.5% in 2019) and 4.7% of middle school students vaped (10.5% in 2019). The progress made last year is completely different than the data gathered from 2011 to 2015, in which the U.S. Surgeon cited a 900% increase in vape (e-cigarette) use among teenagers.
According to health experts, the decline in vaping may be attributed to spikes in vaping-related illnesses, higher age requirements to legally purchase/use vape products and the numerous bans on flavored vape products – which may have played one of the largest roles. 80% of current youth vapers use flavored vape products (National Youth Tobacco Survey), which is something that has been a consistent trend for years. As a result, in 2019 the FDA began a strong push to ban flavored vape products and eventually finalized enforcement policies on unauthorized flavored (cartridge-based) vape products in January of 2020. As a result, popular vape companies like Juul and others chose to no longer produce flavored cartridge-based products, which no doubt helped to contribute to the lowered use rates.
Although numbers have sharply decreased, there is still a concerningly high number of youth e-cigarette users (3.6 million), many of which have transitioned from using flavored cartridge-based vape products (i.e. Juul) to disposable flavored vape products, like Puff Bar. Unfortunately, the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that in 2020, 26.5% of high school students (2.4% in 2019) and 15.2% of middle school students (3% in 2019) used disposable vape products. One of the main reasons for the surge in disposable vape product use is because the policies on flavored vape products were written specifically for flavored cartridge-based products and did not include disposable products.
Aside from the key contributing factors experts noted as factors in helping to reduce use rates, it is also important to highlight the role students and all influential adults (parents, guardians, teachers, school staff, etc.) had. Having been with Candor Health Education since 2011, I have been able to see firsthand the evolution from students and influential adults just passively wondering what those “fake cigarettes” were, to hour-long student presentations, staff in-services and community forums filled with inquiries for as much information as possible.
The work influential adults have put in to educate young people and our youth’s openness to ask questions and willingness to learn should not be understated, but it is still mightily important to continue putting forth the same effort to see that the use rates continue to lower.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides influential adults with these tips for continuing to educate our youth:
- Prepare for conversations –
- Gather credible information.
- Plan to avoid criticism and encourage open dialogue in conversation not a lecture.
- Prepare to have conversations in bits and pieces.
- Start conversations –
- Natural discussions will increase the likelihood that a teen will listen. Rather than saying “we need to talk”, you might ask what they think about a situation you witness together.
- Try to have conversations in places where you and your teen typically speak.
- Answer questions –
- Prepare (as much as possible) to have answers to potential questions your teen may have and also develop comfort in being honest when you do not actually know the answer.
- Seek help if needed –
- If your teen has developed a nicotine addiction, seek professional help as early as possible.
For more information on vaping and other drugs of abuse, visit the Candor Health Education website at www.candorhealthed.org.
Written by: Lance Williams-Education Manager, Candor Health Education