Article image

Vaping epidemic: Nearly half of students who try e-cigs get hooked

Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a significant decrease in the use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products among high school students, marking a potential shift in the vaping epidemic among American youth.

Declining trend

During the 2022-2023 school year, the usage of any tobacco product over the past 30 days dropped from 16.5 to 12.6 percent among high school students, with e-cigarette use specifically decreasing from 14.1 to 10 percent. 

These numbers reflect a noteworthy decline in a trend that has been causing concern among health professionals for years.

More work is needed

Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, the director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, acknowledged the improvement.

“The decline in e-cigarette use among high school students shows great progress, but our work is far from over,” Kittner said in a CDC news release.

“Findings from this report underscore the threat that commercial tobacco product use poses to the health of our nation’s youth. It is imperative that we prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and help those who use tobacco to quit.” 

Record lows

The report draws attention to the influence of public education and policy in the reduction of tobacco use among teenagers. Yolonda Richardson, president and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, praised the sharp decrease in e-cigarette use.

“It is terrific news for our nation’s health that e-cigarette use among high school students fell sharply this year, while use of cigarettes, cigars and other smoked tobacco products are at record lows,” said Richardson. 

“These results are powerful evidence that with the right policies and public education campaigns, we can drive down and even eliminate youth use of all tobacco products. They show that we can reduce youth e-cigarette use without a resurgence in cigarette smoking.”

Tobacco product use

However, Richardson cautioned against complacency, noting that over two million children still use e-cigarettes, with a significant portion exhibiting behaviors indicative of addiction. This concern is heightened by the increase in tobacco product use among middle school students, from 4.5 to 6.6 percent. 

There is a need for continued action, especially in eliminating flavored e-cigarettes which are a major factor in youth uptake.

“Despite this progress, youth e-cigarette use remains a serious public health problem in the United States, and it continues to be driven by the widespread availability of illegal and unauthorized flavored products that must be taken off the market.” Richardson noted in a statement. 

“Over 2 million kids still use e-cigarettes and over a third of them use e-cigarettes daily or most days, a strong indication they are addicted to the high-nicotine products now on the market.”

National Youth Tobacco Survey

The CDC’s report is based on data from the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which included responses from students in grades 6 through 12. The findings revealed that e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youths, with disposable e-cigarettes and certain brands such as Elf Bar and Esco Bars being notably popular.

Alarmingly, about half of the students who had tried e-cigarettes were found to be current users, and among these, a quarter reported daily use. 

Flavored e-cigarettes were used by nearly 90 percent of the current e-cigarette users, which has been a contentious point in the regulation of these products.

Health concerns

The CDC stresses the dangers of vaping and youth tobacco use, citing the harm caused by nicotine to the developing adolescent brain and the potential for lifelong addiction, as well as future disability, disease, and death. 

To combat this, the agency emphasizes the need for continued monitoring, comprehensive prevention strategies, and interventions to support youth quitting. This includes measures such as price increases, comprehensive smoke-free policies, counter-marketing campaigns, and healthcare interventions.

The decline in e-cigarette usage among high school students is a promising sign, but it also brings into focus the need for sustained efforts to ensure this trend continues downwards, particularly as concerns arise from the uptick in usage among middle schoolers. 

Vaping studies

The long-term health effects of vaping are not yet fully understood, and this is an active area of research that has been expanding as the use of electronic cigarette devices has increased globally.

Studies on vaping have focused on various aspects such as:

Health effects

Research has looked into both short-term and potential long-term health effects of vaping, including its impact on the respiratory system, cardiovascular health, and its role in nicotine addiction.

Comparison with smoking

Many studies compare the effects of vaping with traditional cigarette smoking, often focusing on the levels of harmful substances in e-cigarette vapor versus cigarette smoke.

Use in smoking cessation

There’s significant interest in understanding whether vaping products are effective as smoking cessation tools, and how they compare to other nicotine replacement therapies.

Youth vaping

There’s a growing body of research on the prevalence of vaping among teenagers and young adults, including the implications for nicotine addiction and the potential for vaping to lead to traditional tobacco use.

Nicotine addiction 

Investigating how vaping affects nicotine addiction, especially among younger populations, and its role in either promoting smoking cessation or serving as a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking.

Regulation and public health policy

Research is also being conducted on how regulation impacts vaping usage patterns, public health, and tobacco industry practices.

Chemical composition and toxicity

Studies examine the chemicals found in various vaping liquids and their potential toxicity, including flavoring agents and base liquids (propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin).

Public health

Assessing the overall impact of vaping on public health, including the effects of secondhand exposure and the implications of vaping in non-smoking environments.

The body of research is still growing, and there is ongoing debate regarding the safety of vaping. While some studies suggest that vaping may be less harmful than traditional smoking and can help in smoking cessation, others point to potential risks and unknown long-term effects.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day