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Teens Turning to Cigarettes to End Their Vaping Addiction

Teenage couple lighting cigarettes outside  

New evidence is coming to light, indicating vaping is leading some teens to begin smoking cigarettes or to return to smoking cigarettes in an attempt to stop vaping. This comes at a time when the rate of teens smoking cigarettes had shown serious declines, and some are worried these numbers could once again surge. According to the Truth Initiative, in 2018 the young adult cigarette smoking rate was around 10%, which is an all-time low. That’s more than a 20% drop in just a year and a 45% decline since 2011. Following all the hard work to get to the historic low rates of teen cigarette smoking, vaping could represent a growing new problem and a new path to teen nicotine addiction.

Teen Smoking and Vaping Statistics

So, just how many teens smoke cigarettes? While the young adult smoking rate is around 10%, the youth smoking rate is estimated to be around 5.4%.  That’s about 1.3 million American teens who smoke. Youth and young adults are the highest risk groups to start smoking cigarettes since around 99% of smokers start by the age of 26.

While the trends in terms of cigarette smoking have been promising to this point, the vaping trends and statistics aren’t. Teens Juuling and using other vaping devices has gone up so dramatically it’s often called a vaping epidemic. A federal survey found 27.5% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette in the prior 30 days.

Teens Move Away from Vaping to Smoke Cigarettes

There are a number of dangers of vaping, and one of those is the potential for nicotine addiction to develop. With the popular Juul pod, there are around 200 puffs, and that is as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The pods are incredibly potent, and that can increase the likelihood of becoming addicted to nicotine. A story in the Los Angeles Times featured teens who’d originally used vaping as a way to stop smoking traditional cigarettes. However, they were so addicted to the nicotine in vaping devices that they ultimately returned to smoking cigarettes.

This is contrary to what e-cigarette companies have used in their marketing. They’ve positioned vaping as a way to stop smoking cigarettes. For example, Juul’s mission statement says they aim to help adult smokers completely stop using cigarettes.

Recently the Food and Drug Administration issued a reprimand to Juul because they were promoting their products as safer than cigarettes without permission from the FDA. Dr. Elisa Tong, an associate professor of medicine at UC Davis, spoke to the Los Angeles Times pointing out that using vaping devices might be exposing people to more nicotine than they even realize.

All of this comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating hundreds of cases of lung diseases, primarily among young people and possibly linked to vaping. Six have died, and states are making legal moves to ban or reduce the availability of these products. For example, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored e-cigarette sales, and in San Francisco, a ban on the sale of all e-cigarettes is set to go into effect in 2020.


Ibarra, Ana B. “Vapers seek relief from nicotine addiction by turning to cigarettes.” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2019. Accessed November 4, 2019.

Truth Initiative. “Young adult smoking rate drops to 10%.” September 5, 2018. Accessed November 4, 2019.

LaVito, Angelica. “CDC says teen vaping surges to more than 1 in 4 high school students.” CNBC, September 12, 2019. Accessed November 4, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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