Vapers everywhere have been watching a heightened level of attention surround their favorite hobby over the last few months. With all the noise around a potential ban of all flavored vape juices, one of the most common lines you’ll hear from pro-ban people is that it would protect minors from picking up what they consider a dangerous habit. Teenage vaping, they say, is an epidemic. We’ve discussed here before that this is a misguided perception fueled mostly by misinformation and a misunderstanding of the retail vape market.
Young people, people not old enough to legally purchase or consume nicotine products, should not be vaping. You won’t find anyone here arguing the contrary. The question that we’re going to dive into here is whether or not the “teenage vaping crisis” that the media has been reporting on warrants the alarmist rhetoric we’ve all been hearing. As we’ve all become painfully aware of, the media has a tendency to drum up controversy whether it’s there or not.
Teen vaping media coverage
Much of the media’s reaction to the current vaping situation is based on a story from years ago where Juul was going to high schools to promote the safety of vaping to minors. It’s a campaign they’ve since halted and apologized for. But the narrative picked up from there and we’ve still seen plenty of negative press for the vaping industry, and Juul specifically.
Once this new lung illness started getting connected to vapes, even though the majority of cases are related to black market THC products, the media went on to scapegoat the entire vape industry. And with the Trump administration justifying their flavored e-cig ban by saying it would protect kids from vaping, the media was able to keep this narrative afloat.
The study that started it all
The primary piece of information that people will point to when talking about the teenage vaping “crisis,” is a study that came from the National Youth Tobacco Survey that saw a 78% rise in vape use among US high school students from 2017 to 2018. Now, at face value, that statistic seems like a legitimate cause for concern, but there are some serious flaws in the way that information is being reported.
A group of independent UK researchers re-analyzed the information found in that study to see if there really is a crisis on our hands. While, yes, that 78% statistic is technically true, it’s based on the number of US high schoolers that had vaped once in the previous 30 days. What this reanalysis does a bit differently than the initial researchers is it differentiates between “experimental” vaping and regular users. Basically, they made room for kids who had tried vaping but weren’t actually someone you would consider a “vaper,” and it also identified vapers that were already cigarette smokers before they started vaping.
Given that change, it was discovered that this study actually found that nearly everyone in the study considered regular vapers (people that vaped 20 or more days in the last month) were already using tobacco before vaping.
Of all the people in the study that said they had never used tobacco before, only 8.4% of them had vaped in the last 30 days, and only 1% had become regular users. That represents a stark contrast from the story you’re often hearing in the media, that kids are rapidly becoming vapers where they would otherwise never touch a tobacco product. This statistic is extra compelling when you combine it with the fact that this same study in 2015 found that the vast majority of youth that vape actually tried smoking first. Considering that vaping is widely regarded as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, this study actually shows that vaping is mitigating the dangerous effects of cigarettes on US high school kids.
What actually helps the kids
It’s important to keep in mind that the US media is just about always trying to get people fired about one topic or another. One of the recent targets of that behavior has been vaping. That doesn’t mean that the vaping industry doesn’t have improvements to make or changes to consider. Keeping young people away from compounds like nicotine that their bodies aren’t ready for, that’s a problem in which the vaping industry will continue to hold an important role in solving. But, in order for everybody to move forward and protect those kids without unnecessarily burdening legitimate business, we have to make sure we are responding to facts, not hysteria.
There’s a reason that Americans have a very different view of vaping than many comparable countries in the UK. We need to pick and choose what we’re actually throwing a fit over, or we risk serious cultural and economic repercussions. Teen vaping is something that we should all work toward preventing, but that doesn’t mean we have a crisis on our hands like the media would have you believe.
By the way, I couldn’t put it out there any better. I’m giving you my input based on myself. I am 52. When I was a teen in JHschool I was not a problem child. Matter of fact I did very well in school. But I was already smoking cigarettes. I was 13. I party with my friends on weekends. I became addicted to cigarettes for 30yrs. I wanted to quit. I tried everything. Still went back to smoking cigarettes. When I heard of vaping I had to try it. The amount of nicotine and chemicals that are in cigarettes is far worse then vaping. The flavor is no different than what we use to bake with. How I know this. I use to make my own juice for vaping. It’s the nicotine. Nicotine is a addictive. But I use to think smoking full flavor cigarettes to lights would help me quit. Find out it’s all flavor. With vaping you can control the amount of nicotine to were you don’t need the nicotine . I feel the media has gone over board by putting vaping on the scale of its a Crisis but my opinion that cigarettes, drugs and alcohol become far worse. Kids are influenced by the surroundings. It’s the parents that need to be more aware of what their children are doing. Most teenagers are already having sex and teen pregnancy. Hell in my Opinion Vaping is not a Crisis. It may be a concern for what our children are doing but using the word crisis I think I would be more worried about what’s far worse.
If there’s anything I know about teens, the quickest way to make them want to try something is to threaten a ban or outlaw it. Did anyone check to see how much teen vaping has increased since all the media about banning flavors compared to the years prior?
I loved the article! Very informative as well as truthful. We need more unbiased information like this. It is a shame that American news has blindly given out mainly fear propaganda and not real facts. Thank you VaporDNA for continuing to inform people through studies from America and abroad.
Thanks for sharing this article. No, Teen vaping is not a crisis, but smoking. Of course avoid teen vaping and smoking is more smart.
How many people has cigarettes help kill? When will they be banned? I’m thinking tobacco company lobbyists are loving this.
Why is this happening in the U.S and no other country? Vaping is happening everywhere. Hmm.
Let me start by saying when the politicians say it’s for the children, watch out. I believe this whole “teen vaping epidemic” is mostly fake news and a cover for the state governments to put us all back to smoking cigarettes. You might say that’s impossible they have told us over and over again to quit why would they want us to kill ourselves. MONEY, and not just a little bit of money we’re talking billions, and to a state that’s real money. Especially if they’ve already spent it barrowed against it before vaping was even a thing. Now they’re being asked to pony up by the banks they borrowed it from and they don’t have it because you and I quit smoking and started vaping.
This is another example of how “free” this country really is! I’m a firm believer in the idea that the US is in fact a police state. I don’t necessarily mean cops but they are included. In my opinion the US is a free country as long as you do what the “authorities” tell you to do and vaping is another example of this! Minnesota governor stated “HE.. Wants to ban flavors because HE believes it’s a crisis” since when do a hundred or so politicians make the rules for millions of citizens? I wrote the MN governor and told him to stop acting like a dictator and put it to a public vote, I guarantee it would never pass. I’ll decide what in my life is a crisis and what isn’t! I spent 12 years addicted to meth and believe me kids get that too and it’s always been banned! This is just another example of the cops controlling the masses while they get away with everything including drug use and murder but they know better what good for you and I than we know what’s good for ourselves! It’s a JOKE, but then again look at what is in charge of this country and nothing should supprise us anymore!
I think the idea of mitigation is a good one. We teach our kids to practice safe sex. Lets also teach them not to vape but if you must make sure its nicotine free because its incredibly addictive. Also don’t vape thc products because at the moment it seems to be killing some and of course because it gets you high. I think the government should focus on the role of educating kids and parents of what the realities are while continuing to research any harmful effects with real stats not histerical rhetoric.
Thanks for taking on this serious subject. In my observation the vape industry is one of the most responsible and willing to look at itself and make changes in the name of health and safety. Our freedoms should not be infringed upon based on misinformation.
First off let me start off by telling you I’m 65 and I remember when I was 15 and smoked my first cigarette. I couldn’t buy them, I’d ask my older friends to get them for me. I did that for years till I was old enough to get my own. I’m pretty sure it’s no different today except it’s not cigarettes. It’s not the law and it’s not the vap shops, if someone wants something they find a way to get it.