Now is an important time for parents and schools to address youth nicotine use. Recent research shows that youth vaping, which is still at epidemic levels, was significantly impacted as students spent more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and had less retail access to e-cigarettes and opportunities to share e-cigarettes with others. Now that many young people are back in school and reunited with classmates, they may be more exposed to the harms of nicotine.
Parents and schools have important roles to play in reaching students with the information they need to make informed choices, as well as tools to quit if they are already vaping. Here are some of the most important things parents should know about youth vaping and nicotine use.
Vaping Poses Both Physical and Mental Health Risks
Nicotine is harmful to developing brains: younger users are more likely to become addicted, have more difficulty quitting, and could be at higher risk for addiction to other substances in the future. Young people who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to start smoking cigarettes than their peers who do not vape.
Nicotine use is also linked to mental health in several ways, according to a body of peer-reviewed research summarized in a new Truth Initiative report. In fact, nicotine can worsen anxiety symptoms and amplify feelings of depression.
Flavored Products Remain Widely Available
Flavors play a significant role in drawing youth to tobacco products—more than 80% of youth who have used tobacco report that they began with a flavored product. Despite the proven appeal to youth, flavored nicotine products remain widely available due to exemptions in policies and regulatory delays.
While federal policy restricts the availability of some types of flavored e-cigarettes, like JUUL, young people are simply switching to other products that still offer flavors. For example, flavored disposable e-cigarettes and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes of all kinds are both still allowed on the market and have skyrocketed in popularity. Nicotine pouches and lozenges, a new type of tobacco product that comes in many flavors and includes brands such as Zyn, On! and Velo, are also gaining popularity.
Students Need the Facts About E-Cigarettes and Nicotine
Many youth e-cigarette users are unaware most vapes contain nicotine. Some of these vape products deliver nicotine as efficiently as a cigarette. For example, the maker of JUUL claims the product has a nicotine content like traditional cigarettes, and that it delivers the nicotine up to 2.7 times faster than other e-cigarettes.
Vaping: Know the Truth, a curriculum from Truth Initiative and Kaiser Permanente in collaboration with the American Heart Association, gives young people facts about e-cigarette use. Developed as part of the truth® campaign, the curriculum is a 40- to 45-minute self-administered digital course for middle and high school grade levels.
Through four learning modules, young people learn about the hazards of vaping, how e-cigarette marketers target them, the environmental toll of e-cigarette waste, and the benefits of a vape-free life. The curriculum also introduces students who are already vaping to This is Quitting, a first-of-its-kind text message program that is helping nearly 400,000 young people quit vaping.
Many Young E-Cigarette Users are Trying to Quit
To give them the support they need, This is Quitting incorporates text messages from other young people who have attempted to, or successfully quit, e-cigarettes. Young e-cigarette users who used This is Quitting for seven months were nearly 40% more successful at quitting vaping than young e-cigarette users who didn’t use the resource, according to a randomized clinical trial in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Free Resources are Available
Both This is Quitting and Vaping: Know the Truth are available at no cost. Young people can access This is Quitting for free by texting DITCHVAPE to 88709. Parents of young people who vape can text QUIT to (202) 899-7550 to receive text messages designed specifically for them.
For more information about these programs and to learn more about how you can help inspire lives free from smoking, vaping and nicotine, visit TruthInitiative.org.
Truth Initiative is America’s largest nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use and nicotine addiction a thing of the past.