Protecting Young People From E-cigarettes

Student looking at computer, watching online education classes or webinar at home.

As back-to-school season begins—whether that means in-person or virtual classes—parents and teachers must juggle many roles and many different concerns about students’ health. Protecting youth and young adults from the harms of using e-cigarettes is one important way you can help keep them healthy.

E-cigarette liquid that contains nicotine (the same addictive drug in other tobacco products like cigarettes) is unsafe for youth and young adults. Nicotine can harm brain development, and young people’s brains continue to develop up to about age 25. In 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General called it an epidemicexternal icon, meaning an outbreak of a health threat in a specific group of people.

E-Cigarette Use and Young People
By 2014, e-cigarettes were the tobacco product most often used by youth.

E-cigarettes came onto the market in the United States in 2007, and by 2014, they were the tobacco product most often used by youth. In 2020, about 3.6 million youth nationwide reported currently using e-cigarettes, including 1 in 5 high school students.

Nicotine addiction is part of what has caused the youth e-cigarette epidemic. Newer types of e-cigarettes, sometimes called “pod mods,” use a liquid containing nicotine salts, which lets the user breathe in even more nicotine, with less irritation to the throat and lungs, than older types of e-cigarettes.

Other factors have also played a part in youth e-cigarette use. Companies that make e-cigarettes use advertising tactics like animated ads, young actors, and celebrities to appeal to younger audiences. In one study of e-cigarette ads shown on TV in the U.S., more than 70% showed e-cigarette users in positive moods—happy, smiling, having fun—while using.

The fact that e-cigarette liquid is available in flavors also attracts youth. Most youth who use e-cigarettes use flavored products, and flavors are among the most common reasons youth say they first try e-cigarettes.

What You Can Do
Teenage boy sitting at desk doing homework assignment on laptop.

There are proven ways to help reduce use of e-cigarettes by young people, including by keeping them from starting to use these products in the first place. To help protect youth and young adults from e-cigarette use, you can:

Many things remain uncertain as a new school year begins, but you can give youth and young adults solid, proven, science-backed information on the risks of using e-cigarettes. Protecting their minds and lungs from harm caused by e-cigarettes and nicotine is still very important.