Amid the Pandemic, Teens Are Vaping Again

Teens are still flocking to vapes and e-cigarettes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests.

The report in question — conducted by the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — analyzed online survey responses from youth in middle school (grades 6–8) and high school (9–12) throughout the United States. More than 28,000 youth participated.

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In 2022, there are an estimated 2.5 million U.S. teens currently using e-cigarettes. That represents 14.1 percent of American high schoolers and 3.3 percent of middle schoolers. Among self-identified e-cig users, roughly 40 percent reported “frequent use” — about 25 percent said they smoke daily. Respondents overwhelmingly preferred flavored products.

The overall figure increased slightly since 2021’s report, which estimated 2.06 million teen e-cigarette users. The 2022 report did not offer any possible explanations as to why this uptick occurred. However, CDC did note that, due to changes in data collection methods amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “the ability to compare estimates from 2022 with those from previous NYTS waves is limited.”

Teenager vaping
Teenager vaping

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Although e-cigarettes appear to be rising in popularity among teens, they are associated with serious medical risks. According to the CDC, most e-cig cartridges contain nicotine, the highly addictive chemical found in traditional cigarettes. Nicotine use in adolescence can cause harm to parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and more. Additionally, one study from 2020 found that vaping can potentially increase a teen’s risk of contracting COVID-19.

“This [study] is powerful evidence that kids aren’t just experimenting with e-cigarettes, but becoming addicted to the high-nicotine products now dominating the market,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told The Washington Post.

Many parents, youth advocacy groups, and government agencies continue to petition for laws restricting the use of e-cig and vapes. They’ve had some success, too. Back in June, the FDA banned products from Juul Labs, a popular e-cigarette manufacturer.

Vaping among U.S. teens actually peaked in 2019 at 5.4 million reported users.

“Sustained implementation of comprehensive tobacco prevention and control strategies at the national, state, and local levels, coupled with FDA regulation and enforcement, is critical to addressing e-cigarette use among middle and high school students,” the 2022 report concluded.

Before you go, check out our favorite quotes to inspire healthy attitudes about food and bodies:


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