A national study has some good news for parents this month, just in time for Christmas: Teenagers are just not as into vaping this year as they used to be.
According to the 42nd annual Monitoring the Future study, a lower percentage of teens reported using electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices than the previous year. This is significant because it is the first time researchers have found a decrease in teen vaping. (Vaping refers to the use of a battery-powered device that heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into a vapor to be inhaled.)
One might be tempted to brush this off as an anomaly, but for another tidbit from the report: Slightly more of the teenagers surveyed this year said vaping was a health risk. More good news for parents, because it indicates that teens have absorbed the growing warnings about vaping. (The proliferation of news stories this year about electronic cigarettes exploding in people's faces may have helped spread the discouraging word, too. Disfigurement is a powerful motivator.) Ideally, this will encourage more anti-vaping campaigns aimed at minors.
Conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the study drew on the experiences of more than 45,000 randomly selected students in grades 8, 10 and 12 from schools all over the lower 48 states. The study also found that, with the exception of marijuana, illicit drug use among teens is at its lowest point in two decades. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking sunk to its lowest rate since the Monitoring the Future study began. A trifecta of terrific tidings!
Although the cancer-causing smoke and tar are absent from electronic cigarettes, they are not without risks. Nicotine is associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke, and the chemical used to flavor some liquid nicotine is linked to a ghastly sounding condition called "popcorn lung."
Those are risks that adults should be free to ignore if they choose to. But not children. The highly addictive substance has been found to affect brain development in adolescents, making them more susceptible to abuse other drugs. Research also indicates that using electronic cigarettes lead teens eventually to switch to smoking conventional cigarettes.
The new report is particularly well timed because it came just days after the U.S. Surgeon General sounded the alarm about the growing use of e-cigarettes among young people. That sobering report was based on data from past years that saw a steep increase in teen use of electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices before 2016.
We hope to see another, bigger drop in the results of the Monitoring the Future report next year in response to the new federal rules to keep minors from buying vaping devices that went into effect this summer. Although there is much that we still don't know about the risks of vaping, we do know that it's not appropriate for kids.