alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

The growing rates of teen vaping and e-cigarette use have been a focal point at the national legislative level for the past several years. From the U.S. surgeon general’s youth vaping epidemic announcement to the investigation of vaping industry leader Juul, congressional representatives have been busy addressing the issue.

In late 2019, Congress passed a bill to raise the national age of purchase for tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21, and further efforts to curb smoking rates have been championed at all levels of government. In the past, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been called out for its lack of action on youth vaping, but the agency is working to change that for the future.

FDA has revamped its Real Cost anti-smoking campaign to focus on e-cigarette use among teenagers. According to reports, more than 2.1 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes and vaping mechanisms in 2017, leading to questions about the availability of vaping devices in schools across the country. In response, FDA targeted its e-cigarette and vaping campaign to focus on school-age children who have used or could potentially use e-cigarettes.

The initiative launched attention-grabbing advertisements, commercials, posters, and public service announcements directed at students aged 12–17 to highlight the dangers associated with vaping. The messages target the “cost-free” mentality that young smokers have about vaping, assuming it won’t have any ill effects on their health. After a flurry of lung-related illness associated with vaping in 2019, the initiative illustrates the harm connected with the devices. Resources are available on FDA’s Real Cost website.

As champions of the public health, nurses are essential to the vaping conversation. ONS issued a revised position statement on the use of e-cigarettes and vaping, focused efforts at the 2019 Capitol Hill Days to offer the nursing perspective to lawmakers and elected officials, and is holding a meeting on March 5, 2020 with student and pediatric nursing organizations to collaborate and share resources. When nurses speak, people listen, and they will be central to addressing the youth vaping epidemic.