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E-cigarette use among U.S. youth has skyrocketed in recent years, resulting in what the U.S. Surgeon General and other public health authorities have called a youth e-cigarette “epidemic.”

From 2017 to 2019, current e-cigarette use more than doubled among high school students (from 11.7% to 27.5%) and tripled among middle school students (from 3.3% to 10.5%), according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Altogether, more than 5.3 million kids now use e-cigarettes – an increase of over 3 million in just two years.

Flavored products, especially Juul, have fueled this epidemic – nearly all (97%) of current youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and 70% use e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like.” E-cigarettes are sold in over 15,000 flavors, from mint and menthol to gummy bear and cotton candy.

Thousands of Flavored Products Still on the Market

To address this crisis, the Trump Administration announced in September 2019 that it planned to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes. However, the final policy the Administration issued in January 2020 left thousands of flavored e-cigarette products on the market in over 100,000 locations across the country – including in convenience stores, gas stations and vape shops.

The Administration’s policy prohibited most flavors in one type of e-cigarette – cartridge- or pod-based products like Juul. But it contains gaping loopholes that allow e-cigarette makers to continue luring and addicting kids with other flavored products. Flavored e-cigarettes that remain widely available under the Administration’s plan include:

  • Disposable e-cigarettes that are sold in a variety of kid-friendly flavors, colorfully packaged, cheap, easy to use and hide, and deliver massive doses of nicotine (as much or more than a whole pack of cigarettes).
  • Nicotine e-liquids sold in over 15,000 flavors.
  • Refillable devices like Smok and Suorin, the most popular brands among high school students after Juul.
  • Menthol varieties of Juul and other pod-based e-cigarettes.

To protect kids, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health advocates are urging policy makers at all levels to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes. A growing number of states and cities – including Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York City and San Francisco – have taken action. Congress is currently considering federal legislation, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, that would prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

Health Risks to Kids

E-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of kids and threaten to reverse decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use. These products pose serious health risks to young people:

  • The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, causes addiction and can harm adolescent brain development, which impacts attention, memory and learning. The Surgeon General also found that using nicotine in adolescence can increase risk of future addiction to other drugs.
  • Because Juul and other e-cigarettes deliver massive doses of nicotine, they put kids at greater risk of addiction. Kids, parents, educators and pediatricians across the country are sharing devastating stories of kids suffering from nicotine addiction and withdrawal. In 2019, 1.6 million kids reported frequent use of e-cigarettes (on at least 20 days a month), which is a strong indication of addiction.
  • Studies have found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become smokers, and many are low-risk youth who would not have otherwise smoked cigarettes.

Last updated Feb. 24, 2020