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Opinion: Vaping a Dangerous Path for Youth

Written By Editor on 8/1/22 | 8/1/22

By Jennifer Hill

Community Engagement Coordinator

Tobacco Free Communities | Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie

As most know, vaping is a nationwide epidemic. In New York State, vaping or e-cigarette use among high school students spiked in just four years, from 10.5% in 2014 to 27.4% in 2018. This past spring, faculty and staff in Schoharie County public high schools observed 80-90% of students vaping. More worrisome is how often youth vape. The 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 2.55 million youth used e-cigarettes, with 44% of high school e-cigarette users vaping on 20 or more days a month and 28 percent using e-cigarettes every day. More than 8% of middle school students who vape use e-cigarettes every day. 

It has long been argued that it's the smoke and not the nicotine that kills, but addiction to nicotine, especially during adolescence, can cause long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health. Nicotine has been found to impact attention, learning, and memory negatively. The e-liquids in vapes often have high concentrations of nicotine. JUUL, one of the largest e-cigarette companies, sells pods which contain 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. People who vape are also more likely to smoke cigarettes, an ironic twist on the tobacco industry's claim that vaping helps people quit smoking. 

E-cigarettes also allow users to inhale nicotine continuously while cigarettes have smaller, measured amounts and allow for smokers to take longer breaks in between smoking each one.  Teenagers who start vaping can become addicted within days. Students often have behavioral problems if their e-cigarettes are confiscated after being caught vaping at school because the effects of withdrawing from high concentrations of nicotine can be acute.

E-liquids often contain other harmful ingredients, including metal particles and chemicals found in cigarette smoke that can cause irreversible lung damage. In addition, e-cigarettes contain hazardous materials, including liquid nicotine, and are not biodegradable, which harms the environment.

As with regular cigarettes, the tobacco industry markets e-cigarettes primarily to youth, knowing that once youth start vaping, they will be long-time customers. Adding sweet, enticing flavors to e-cigarettes is key to addicting youth, which has prompted parents, schools, healthcare providers, and other organizations to push for bans on flavors in e-cigarette. In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricted flavors in cartridge-based e-cigarettes, such as Juuls, to just menthol and tobacco, but the flavor ban didn’t apply to disposable e-cigarettes, such as Puff Bars. It's no surprise that with flavors like Blue Razz and Banana Ice, Puff Bar has overtaken Juul as the favorite e-cigarette for teens. The 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey cited above reported 85% of the 2.55 million youth who vaped used flavored e-cigarettes, demonstrating the continuing availability of flavored vapes.

Many e-cigarettes are found in small shapes and designs that look like pens, USB drives, asthma inhalers, and other objects, so their users can vape undetected. E-cigarette companies unabashedly call it "stealth vaping" and give advice on how different designs and brands can help the user avoid getting caught. The intended audience is, of course, youth.

While the FDA and New York State have taken measures to reduce youth e-cigarette use through national and state policies, local efforts are needed to combat the epidemic of teen e-cigarette use.  Tobacco Free Communities: Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie works with community organizations, schools and young people  to reduce youth e-cigarette use and prevent youth from initiating tobacco use in our tricounty area. Our youth program, Reality Check, empowers high school students to counter the tobacco industry's deceptive marketing practices that aim to addict them to their harmful products. For more information, contact Reality Check Coordinator, Nicole Schuck at or go to our website,

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