E-Cigarette Representative Apologizes for Teen Vaping Crisis
The electronic cigarette company that controls over 40% of the market, Juul Labs, Inc., is expressing regret for their role in the vaping epidemic that is affecting Americans, especially teenagers. In a message to parents on CNBC, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said, “First of all, I’d tell them [parents] that I’m sorry that their child’s using this product. It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what challenges they’re going through.”
Burns claims that the most popular e-cigarette in the U.S., Juul, was not intended to influence teens to vape. The company’s intention was to create a safe vape pen to help adults quit smoking. However, evidence suggests that e-cigarettes aren’t necessarily safer than traditional smoking. To combat the relationship between Juul and teens, the company claims they have shut down their social media accounts and removed fruity flavors like mango that most appealed to teens.
The Teen Vaping Epidemic
The U.S. National Institution of Health (NIH) reported a significant increase in the vaping epidemic among teens in America in a single year. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), explains that, “Teens are clearly attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in vaping devices. However, it is urgent that teens understand the possible effects of vaping on overall health, the development of the brain, and the potential of addiction.”
Dr. Volkow continues to discuss the association between teens and vaping, saying, “Research tells us that teens who vape may be at risk for transitioning to cigarettes, so while we have celebrated our success in lowering their rates of tobacco use in recent years, we must continue aggressive educational efforts on all products nicotine.”
The city of San Francisco, where Juul’s headquarters are located, banned sales of e-cigarettes with the hopes that the number of teens using Juul would decrease.
Teen Vape Statistics
According to the report by the NIH, approximately 37% of high school seniors reported that they had participated in vaping in 2018 compared to 28% in 2017. The survey also revealed some other vaping statistics, including the fact that nicotine use within the past 30 days nearly doubled from 11% in 2017 to 20% in 2018.
High school seniors also reported that they vaped “just flavoring,” or vape juice flavors without nicotine, in the past year, which increased to 25.7% in 2018 from 20.9% in 2017. More than 10% of eighth-graders reported that they used vape juice with nicotine in the past year. Generally, the use of e-cigarettes has increased in nearly all vaping measures among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders, according to the NIH.
Vaping Health Risks
Many teens are under the impression that vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes; however, there are several vaping health risks to be aware of. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nicotine in e-cigarettes can cause damage to the development of the adolescent brain. Typically, the brain continues to develop until age 25, so using nicotine can harm the parts of the brain that control learning, mood, attention and impulse control.
The synapses, or connections built between brain cells, are usually made quicker in adolescents than adults, but the use of nicotine can change the way that synapses are formed in adolescents, affecting memory and other key functions. Some other vaping risks include:
- Harmful effects of on the lungs. Some e-cigarette flavors are safe to eat but not inhale because the stomach can process more substances than the lungs.
- Defective products. Some defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires or explosions that have resulted in serious injuries.
- Poisoning. Children and adults alike can be poisoned by breathing, swallowing or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through the skin or eyes.
The use of e-cigarettes may also contribute to teens becoming addicted to other substances in the future.
According to the CDC, there have been 805 confirmed cases of vaping-related injuries as of September 2019. There have also been 12 confirmed deaths from vaping, but the number of vaping deaths per year is unknown because the cases of vaping-related injuries and deaths are still being researched.
Actions to Remove Vape Appeal to Teens
Kevin Burns, the CEO of Juul labs inc., reported that Juul’s social media marketing would be shut down to remove the appeal of vaping for American teens. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a policy restricting e-cigarettes sales and eventually eliminating the fruity flavors that typically appeal to teens in an attempt to curb interest among young people.
Outgoing commissioner of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, said, “We think flavored products represent a greater risk to youth appeal, so when we’re looking at the public health value and redeeming qualities of products, we generally feel flavors have more to prove at this point,” he explained. “They’re the ones driving youth use, so we want to do a proper evaluation through our assessment process.”
Additionally, The Trump administration also announced its plan to remove all flavored e-cigarettes to prevent teens from vaping and using nicotine products. The proposed ban includes mint and menthol flavorings as well as bubblegum, candy, fruit, alcohol and other flavors.
Changing the laws surrounding e-cigarette products like Juul could help turn the tide on teen vaping. Acknowledging and understanding the risks associated with vaping is the first step.
National Institute of Health. “Vaping Rises Among Teens.” February 2019. Accessed September 30th, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults.” CDC.gov, March 11, 2019. Accessed September 30, 2019.
LaVito, Angelica. “Juul co-founder defends e-cigarette start-up in congressional hearing over its alleged role in teen vaping ‘epidemic’.” CNBC. July 25, 2019. Accessed October 15, 2019.
National Institutes of Health. “Teens using vaping devices in record numbers.” December 17, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2019.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General.” 2016. Accessed, October 15, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CDC, states update number of cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping.” September 26, 2019. Accessed October 15, 2019.
LaVito Angelica. “FDA outlines e-cigarette rules, tightens restrictions on fruity flavors to try to curb teen vaping.” CNBC, March 13, 2019. Accessed October 15, 2019.