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Vaping is on the rise among young people, and it’s no surprise to anyone paying attention. In 2018, about 21 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, a dramatic increase from 2 percent in 2011. Most adults, though, are still lagging behind. Would you recognize an e-cigarette if you saw it? Not all e-cigarettes look alike, and vaping – which can look more like a USB drive than a cigarette – is easy to hide.


Vaping during adolescence can harm the developing brain, can cause respiratory health issues and may lead to nicotine addiction and the leading cause of preventable death in the US, smoking. A new study, “E-cigarette Marketing Exposure and Subsequent Experimentation among Youth and Young Adults,” in the November 2019 Pediatrics, found that teenagers and young adults who were exposed to e-cigarette marketing were more likely to start vaping over a one-year period. 

Researchers examined survey results of a nationally representative sample of youth and young adults, ages 12-24, who reported having never consumed tobacco products of any kind, asking them if they have noticed e-cigarettes being advertised on billboards, in newspapers or magazines, websites or social media sites, on radio, on television, and at events like fairs, festivals, or sporting events, and found that more than 70% of youth and young adults (equivalent to about 18 million young people in the US) reported exposure to e-cigarette marketing in the past month. These ads impacted young people to different degrees, but susceptible young adults exposed to e-cigarette marketing were about eight times as likely to have experimented with e-cigarettes than those not exposed. Researchers concluded that the FDA should reconsider regulations on e-cigarette marketing and that counter-marketing messages designed to address these powerful ads are needed, but that more research is needed to understand how e-cigarette marketing strategies may influence a young person to start vaping.

Here’s what you should know about teen vaping trends:

  • Kids might use different words to talk about e-cigarettes and vaping. For example, “JUULing” is a popular word to describe using a brand of e-cigarette. About 1 in 4 kids who use e-cigarettes also tries “dripping.” Instead of using a mouthpiece to vape, they drip the liquid directly onto a heat coil. This makes the vapor thicker and stronger.
  • Kids can order “e-juice” on the Internet. The legal age to buy e-cigarettes is 18, but online stores don’t always ask for proof of age.
  • E-cigarette juices are sold in flavors like fruit, candy, coffee and chocolate. Most have the addictive ingredient nicotine.
  • The more kids vape, the more hooked they become. Kids who vape just once are more likely to try other types of tobacco. Their developing brains make it easier for them to get hooked. E-cigarettes may not help people quit using tobacco. Some adults use e-cigarettes when they want to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. While a recent report found e-cigarettes are “less toxic” than cigarettes, most people who use e-cigarettes do not quit using cigarettes.

Talking to your kids about vaping

The American Lung Association offers the following tips to talk to your kids about vaping. The tips are similar to any controversial yet important conversation with kids.

Choose the right time and place: Set your conversation up for success by approaching the topic at a time when your teen will be willing to listen.

Ask open ended questions. Don’t assume your child has done something wrong without evidence. They’ll put up resistance and miss the message. Even when you are fairly sure there is a problem, open the conversation by giving them the benefit of the doubt to keep the communication lines open.

Appeal to their good judgement. Your kids make good choices all the time. Let them know you’re proud of them and encourage them to make choices that are best for them.

Some good conversation starters include: Are a lot of kids in your school vaping? What do think about it? Do you know ways that vaping can affect your life?

Like every stage and age of raising kids, the more we know as parents, the better equipped we are to guide them through challenges and decisions.