Vaping concerns: More than 2.5 million kids reported using e-cigarettes in 2022, new data says

More than 2.5 million kids in the U.S. said they used e-cigarettes in 2022, according to new data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including more than 14% of high school students and more than 3% of middle school students.

Local doctors say they have seen children face health consequences because of vaping.

“Previously, we have had some patients come through our emergency rooms,” said Katy Oppy, a respiratory therapist who facilitates Dayton Children’s teen tobacco cessation classes.

Those patients dealt with difficulty breathing, which led to some patients being put on oxygen and breathing treatments around the clock.

“These kids are getting lung damage younger and younger,” said Mike King, a respiratory therapist with Dayton Children’s. “They’re getting sicker quicker.”

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid containing nicotine, which is the addictive drug in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products, and flavorings to produce an aerosol, and users inhale the aerosol. Oppy said they are also a seeing many kids struggling with the addiction of nicotine.

“That’s not meant to go in the lungs,” King said.

Other teens have gotten referred to Dayton Children’s pulmonary clinic for pulmonary fibrosis, as well as its cessation classes.

“E-cigarettes and vapes are pretty new to our medical world,” Oppy said. “They are producing cancerous causes gases that these kids are breathing into their lungs.”

National numbers

The online survey, which was done in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over January through May 2022, showed that about one in 10 U.S. middle (3.3%) and high (14.1%) school students reported e-cigarette use in the previous 30 days. The Ohio Department of Health has reported an increase in use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes by 88% among middle school and high school students from 2016 to 2019.

“The FDA remains deeply concerned about e-cigarette use among our nation’s youth. It’s clear that we still have a serious public health problem that threatens the years of progress we have made combatting youth tobacco product use,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf. “We cannot and will not let our guard down on this issue. The FDA remains steadfast in its commitment to using the full range of our authorities to address youth e-cigarette use head-on.”

Kids heavily favored using flavored e-cigarettes, with 85% of the survey participants reporting use of those products, along with more than one in four of youth e-cigarette users reporting daily use of an e-cigarette, according to the FDA.

“This study shows that our nation’s youth continue to be enticed and hooked by an expanding variety of e-cigarette brands delivering flavored nicotine,” said Dr. Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “Our work is far from over. It’s critical that we work together to prevent youth from starting to use any tobacco product – including e-cigarettes – and help all youth who do use them, to quit.”

Among the respondents, 14.5% reported their usual brand was Puff Bar, followed by Vuse (12.5%), Hyde (5.5%), and SMOK (4.0%); more than one fifth (21.8%) reported their usual brand was a brand other than the 13 listed in the survey.

Puff Bar contains tobacco-free nicotine, according to its website, where it also lists 17 different flavors like blue razz and blueberry ice. Vuse, Hyde, and SMOK also contain nicotine, according to those product websites.

Local trends

Area health departments are seeing vaping as an issue, saying it can lead to lifelong smoking habits. Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County public information manager Dan Suffoletto said that, according to the CDC, more than 90% of adults who currently smoke first tried smoking by the age of 18.

“It drives you to smoking for the rest of your life,” Suffoletto said.

In Clark County, health officials have found 46% of local teens have tried a vaping device, according to a county survey.

“District administration, staff, and resource officers have communicated that electronic cigarette or ‘vaping’ is currently at epidemic levels in Clark County,” said Leah Behler, tobacco cessation grant coordinator at the Clark County Combined Health District.

“Schools are struggling to prevent teens from using vaping devices and enforce 100% tobacco free campus policies on school grounds. This is due to an unprecedented use of vaping devices among teens today.”

The Clark County Combined Health District said underage vaping usually occurs between the ages of 12 and 17, but they have seen signs that children in the fourth and fifth grades are using vaping devices in school.

JUUL is also no longer a popular product among teens in 2022. Behler said they are seeing local teens interested in the same products noted in the FDA’s survey.

“Youth are now using disposable vaping products like ‘Hyde’ and ‘Puff Bars,’ which can be found at most gas stations,” Behler said.

How teens get e-cigarettes

Oppy and King said kids are getting these products in a variety of ways, from older siblings and friends to businesses that don’t check IDs. The majority of both middle school and high school students in Ohio obtain e-cigarettes by borrowing them or taking them from friends or family, according to ODH. E-cigarettes can also be look like different items like pens and USB drives.

“Youth are acquiring electronic devices through various means,” Behler said. “Typically, products have been purchased by older family members, friends, or acquaintances. While in teens possession, they are often traded or sold to other teens.”

Parents can help their kids by first having an open conversation with them about using e-cigarettes, Oppy said. Parents may notice their teens having anxiety and mood swings, as well as acting like they don’t want to be home a lot.

“Data shows the most effective way to address youth vaping is educating parents and youth about the harms of tobacco use and promoting available cessation resources that help support cessation treatment,” Behler said.

Dayton Children’s, along with local health departments, have programs to help kids quit. Dayton Children’s STAND tobacco cessation program helps kids set goals for quitting tobacco and/or other nicotine products, as well as help kids with coping strategies to quit. Dayton Children’s also connects parents with the Truth Initiative, which is a nonprofit that aims to help keep kids from smoking or vaping.

By the numbers:

According to the CDC:

  • 14.1% (2.14 million) of high school students and 3.3% (380,000) of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use.
  • Current users (nearly 85%) used flavored e-cigarettes, with fruit flavors being the most popular, followed by candy, desserts, or other sweets.
  • More than a quarter (27.6%) of current youth e-cigarette users use an e-cigarette product everyday.
  • More than four in 10 youth e-cigarette users report using e-cigarettes at least 20 of the last 30 days.
  • The most commonly used device among current users was disposables (55.3%), followed by prefilled/refillable pods or cartridges (25.2%).
  • Current users reported their usual brands as: Puff Bar (14.5%), Vuse (12.5%), Hyde (5.5%) and SMOK (4%).

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