E-cigarettes and vaping have been a welcomed invention for many adult smokers who wish to curb their tobacco use or take a step toward harm reduction or quitting. But since their introduction around 2007, they’ve been an utter disaster when it comes to our efforts to curb teen nicotine use and addiction.
Now, a new study shows that e-cigarettes don’t just make smoking easier and more enticing for teens — they also make it harder for them to quit.
The study, which was published this week in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), focuses on what percentage of adolescents fail to quit smoking when they try to. And it found that the rate of kids who want to stop nicotine but can’t have slid backward about two decades.
“These results indicate that failed nicotine quit attempt levels have gone back to where they were about 17 years ago for adolescents,” lead study author Richard Miech, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, told Futurity.
Specifically, the study looked at data captured by the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future project, which surveys hundreds of thousands of students across the country in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade. In 1997, about 10 percent of kids answering the survey said that they had made a failed attempt to stop smoking traditional combustible cigarettes — and that number dropped to below 2 percent by 2020. But now the percent of kids who say they’ve tried and failed to stop vaping is steadily increasing, to about 4 percent in 2020.
That means that overall in 2020, a total of 6 percent of kids reported that they have tried and failed to quit nicotine at least once in the past year. It’s a 17-year high.
“Tobacco control efforts are largely responsible for the two-decade decline in failed nicotine quit attempts, which was brought about by a marked decline in adolescent cigarette use since 2000,” Miech says. “Unfortunately, the recent rise in adolescent e-cigarette use, and growing numbers of adolescents who try to quit e-cigarettes and fail, have eroded much of this decline in adolescents who struggle with nicotine.”
E-cigarette additions are harder to break
Why is it harder to quit e-cigarettes? One reason is that it’s easier for kids to get and use paraphernalia, while at the same time companies are producing “fun” flavors like cotton candy, mango, and strawberry lemonade. Another reason is that vaping is simply more addictive because of the amount of nicotine you can take in.
“We need to do much more to help kids who are addicted to e-cigarettes to quit,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told US News & World Report in response to the study. “The challenge posed by e-cigarettes is greater because the modern e-cigarette delivers more nicotine more rapidly to kids, leading to a more intense addiction.”
Parents also have to contend with the misconception that vaping and e-cigarettes are safe or harmless, which is simply not true. While the devices can be less harmful than tobacco products, they are far from harmless — and even lead to different health issues altogether. Teen vaping reached epidemic status in 2017, and while numbers are dropping again, the CDC still reports that around 2 million teens are using e-cigarettes regularly.
What parents can do about teen vaping
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to simply share your thoughts and feelings on e-cigarettes with your kids. In fact, a 2019 study found that kids were significantly less likely to vape if their parents held a negative view of it.
Another great move? Make sure your kids know about its dangers. The same study cited in the paragraph above found that kids who understood the dangers and harm of vaping were less likely to engage in it. Kids who vaped, on the other hand, believed in common misconceptions.
Finally, keep up to date yourself when it comes to vaping trends. Knowing whether kids are buying JUUL or Puff Bar can also mean knowing how to recognize what your kid is up to or where they’re getting e-cigarettes in the first place.