Why Teens Vape

Research suggests that a spike in teen e-cigarette use doesn't signal a ‘nicotine epidemic.’

August 29, 2016

Public health officials consider electronic cigarettes a gateway to tobacco use for many teens, but a recent study suggests that many U.S. teens aren’t vaping for the nicotine.

Researchers from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found among students who had ever used a vaporizer, 65% to 66% last used “just flavoring” in 12th, in 10th and in 8th grade, more than all other responses combined. Nicotine use came in a distant second, at about 20% in 12th and 10th grade and 13% in 8th grade.

"These results indicate that while taking into account vaporizer use does indeed increased tobacco/nicotine prevalence, the impact of vaporizers is likely not as large as might appear by their recent, dramatic increase in use among adolescents," write the researchers.

The researchers say that messages aimed at curbing vaporizer and e-cigarette use among young people may not be successful if they focus on the dangers of nicotine, given that most teens who vape do not believe they are using nicotine, according to a press release.

The findings call into question the designation of e-cigarettes as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and suggest that the recent spike in the popularity of e-cigarettes among this age group doesn't signal a “nicotine epidemic” as feared.

The researchers quizzed almost 15,000 students about their vaping experiences as part of the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey, an annual, nationally representative study of 8th, 10th and 12th grade students.

In 2014, NACS issued a statement of position that encouraged stores selling e-cigarettes to adopt, as a best practice, a policy of treating these products as age-restricted and subjecting them to the same age-verification procedures as those applicable to tobacco products.

NACS also was a founding member of the pioneering We Card program that was launched in 1995 to help introduce the concept of responsible retailing on a massive scale. Today, convenience stores verify identifications for age-restricted products 4.5 million times a day—almost triple the 1.8 million IDs verified by TSA on a daily basis. The We Card program has provided retailers with more than one million in-store educational kits and has trained more than 375,000 retail employees nationwide.