Talking to Youth and Young Adults to Prevent E-cigarette Use

Composition notebook with scribbles

As students go back to school, parents, teachers, administrators, and coaches can help them make smart choices for their health, including avoiding e-cigarettes.

About 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2020. Now is an important time to help students understand the serious health risks of e-cigarette use.

Why It Matters
E-cigarette use among youth is not safe.

Any tobacco use by youth and young adults, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe.

Nearly all e-cigarette products sold contain nicotine, which is the same addictive drug found in other tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars. The nicotine content information on e-cigarette packaging is often misleading or inaccurate.

Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the mid-20s. Compared with older adults, the brains of youth and young adults are more vulnerable to nicotine’s harmful health effects. These include nicotine addiction and potentially reduced impulse control, mood disorders, and poor attention and thinking skills.

Many youth and young adults who use e-cigarettes also smoke regular cigarettes or use other tobacco products. Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke regular cigarettes later in life. E-cigarette use can also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Youth E-cigarette Use

Parents, teachers, counselors, and coaches should know that in 2020:

  • About 3.6 million US youth reported current e-cigarette use.
  • E-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among US middle and high school students.
  • 1 in 5 high school students and nearly 1 in 10 middle school students who used e-cigarettes reported using them every day.
What You Can Do

Learn about e-cigarette products.  

Having an informed discussion about e-cigarettes with youth begins with knowing what to watch for. If you spend time with young people, you may have seen an e-cigarette device without even knowing it. E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes, as tobacco companies use new technologies to develop new products. The two most common types of e-cigarettes used by youth are prefilled pods or cartridges and disposables. They may look like a small USB flash drive, pen, highlighter, or other everyday items. They are easy to hide among school supplies.

Images of a Tanks and mods, rechargeable e-cigarette, and a disposable e-cigarette.

Some e-cigarette products also come in a variety of flavors, including fruit, candy, mint, dessert, and menthol. These flavors make the addictive product more appealing to kids. In 2020, about 8 in 10 middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes reported using a flavored product.

Set a good example by not using tobacco products.

Youth and young adults look to parents and teachers as role models. It’s important to set a good example by being tobacco-free and ensure that youth and young adults are not exposed to the secondhand emissions from any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. For free support in quitting tobacco products, including quit coaching, a quit plan, educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Talk to Kids Today

Heading back to school is a time of transition for kids and an opportunity for parents, teachers, and other adults who interact with youth to talk to them about the serious short-term and long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes. Don’t miss this chance to talk with kids about these dangers—their health may depend on it.

Find free resources to help guide an informed e-cigarette discussion with youth.

Find more information, including fact sheets and free downloadable resources, at CDC.gov/e-cigarettes.

Educators and administrators can also access lesson plans and classroom activities at Tobacco Education Resources for Parents and Teachers | FDAexternal icon.