Our view: Minnesota survey shows vaping continues to be a frustrating scourge on the nation’s youth
Importantly, according to the Pioneer Press report, teens are underestimating the risk associated with e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The director of the Tobacco-Free Alliance told the newspaper
A recent survey in Minnesota, noting that vaping is still a problem among teens, prompts a sarcastic two-word response: No kidding?
The 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey polled 100 randomly selected public schools and found that one in five students in grades 9-12 is using vaping devices. According to a report published by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, this year’s survey was the first that asked students about the connection between vaping devices and nicotine dependence.
Worse, some 70% of the students who had vaped in the past month reported at least one sign of nicotine dependence, the Pioneer Press reported.
Importantly, according to the Pioneer Press report, teens are underestimating the risk associated with e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The director of the Tobacco-Free Alliance told the newspaper that kids are surprised at how quickly they lose control.
Ever wonder how that could happen?
Perhaps it’s because vape-makers spent years marketing specifically to kids with little or no oversight. Flavors included “Candy Rush,” “Peachy Rings,” “Candy Watermelon” and “Sour Apple Gum.” In 2018, the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed a 78% increase in teen vaping nationwide and that more than a fourth of high school students surveyed had used an e-cigarette in the previous month.
And perhaps it’s because of a misconception – perpetuated by the makers of these devices – that they are safe. The Centers for Disease Control is doing its part, noting that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and that some e-cigarette labels do not disclose that they have nicotine.
Things are getting better, though, perhaps in part because of a mysterious malady that startled the nation. In 2019, hundreds of e-cigarette users were hospitalized nationwide with some sort of serious lung illness. In a relatively short span that year, there were more than 450 cases, including six deaths, linked to vaping. Around that time, the CDC declared youth vaping an epidemic.
The illness now has a name – EVALI, an abbreviation that stands for e-cigarette, or vaping, use-associated lung injury. According to CDC data, EVALI case numbers rose to more than 2,800 by early 2020.
The CDC noted that THC – a chemical derived from marijuana – was detected in most EVALI case samples, which means people who suffered from the illness probably added substances to their devices. However, the CDC has warned, to completely avoid the risk of developing EVALI, “consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.”
In 2019, then-President Donald Trump rightfully called for a ban on flavored cigarettes. Cities and states began restricting sales of vaping products to kids and others banned the use of vaping products in public spaces.
Unfortunately, it took something as bad as EVALI to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping. So, too, has the good work by tobacco-awareness groups and the CDC.
But as shown by the recent survey in Minnesota, the struggle continues, and it seems to center on the belief by teens that vaping just isn’t a big deal, that it’s not habit-forming and that it’s not unsafe.
That lack of awareness makes this a frustrating scourge that still threatens the health of the nation’s youth.