E-cigarettes, initially introduced as a potential step-down smoking cessation strategy, have become a pervasive part of American culture—especially among users younger than 18 years of age. The rise in vaping rates has become so alarming that the U.S. surgeon general issued a statement declaring youth e-cigarette use a national epidemic. In light of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports of increasing vaping-related lung disease and death, ONS released its revised position statement, “Use of E-Cigarettes and Vaping,” to highlight the negative effects of vaping, emphasize the lack of regulatory oversight, and better inform oncology nursing practice for patients and their families.

“ONS members are advocates for cancer prevention at the local and national levels. The current incidences of serious illnesses and death and lack of evidence on the safety of vaping are concerning.” ONS President Laura Fennimore, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, said. “Nurses must use our voices to educate policymakers, parents, and youth about the serious health risks associated with e-cigarettes and vaping.” 

E-cigarettes had been touted as a potentially healthy alternative to combustible cigarettes, despite limited evidence. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any electronic nicotine delivery systems, vapes, or e-cigarettes as acceptable smoking cessation tools and has engaged in limited regulation and oversight for the manufacturing of the products. Manufacturers closely guard information about the levels of nicotine and other possible inhalants in vaping products, and some studies have shown that e-cigarette use leads to similar respiratory and cardiovascular changes found in traditional cigarette smokers.

“Vaping is an epidemic among our middle and high school students. Oncology nurses need to get the message out to parents and their children about the dangers of e-cigarette use,” ONS Director-at-Large Susan Bruce, MSN, RN, OCN®, AOCNS®, CTTS, said. “It is not a safe alternative to smoking. We need to make sure oncology nurses are aware of the potential hazards it could pose to the public health. They are a vital part of that conversation.”

Nurses are key educators in their institutions and throughout their communities. They play a central role in educating children and their parents about the possible hazards associated with vaping and e-cigarette use. As champions of the patient experience and dedicated health policy advocates, oncology nurses must share their expertise with elected officials on the local, state, and national level to inform future legislative efforts to curb youth and adult e-cigarette use.

ONS is a professional association of more than 35,000 members committed to promoting excellence in oncology nursing and the transformation of cancer care. Since 1975, ONS has provided a professional community for oncology nurses, developed evidence-based education programs and treatment information, and advocated for patient care, all in an effort to improve quality of life and outcomes for patients with cancer and their families. Learn more at www.ons.org.