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

The youth vaping epidemic has dominated headlines since the U.S. surgeon general elevated the issue to the nation’s spotlight. In a 2019 survey of junior high and high school students, the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA)—an arm of National Institutes of Health—found that the rate of e-cigarette use had doubled since 2017.

“With 25% of 12th graders, 20% of 10th graders, and 9% of 8th graders now vaping nicotine within the past month, the use of these devices has become a public health crisis,” Nora Volkow, MD, NIDA director, said. “These products introduce the highly addictive chemical nicotine to these young people and their developing brains, and I fear we are only beginning to learn the possible health risks and outcomes for youth.” 

In a joint public statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that use of e-cigarettes and other vaping mechanisms is directly related to severe lung disease, including 26 deaths confirmed throughout the country. With a growing number of cases nationally associated with the use of vaping products, health officials are stepping up public awareness and highlighting the direct effects that smoking has on the respiratory system, especially for minors.

"The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Trump administration are using every tool we have to get to the bottom of this deeply concerning outbreak of illnesses in Americans who use e-cigarettes," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. "More broadly, we will continue using every regulatory and enforcement power we have to stop the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use."

CDC issued a health alert that warned against buying e-cigarette products off the street or modifying them to add other substances. With the incidents of vaping-related deaths climbing, Congress is stepping in with several proposed bills directly related to vaping, e-cigarettes, and flavored tobacco products that are designed to appeal to underage smokers. Without more industry support to curb the vaping epidemic, the proposed bills could add further regulation to the vaping industry in the coming weeks.