Anyone who lives, works, coaches, or spends any time with youth on a regular basis is likely very aware of the ongoing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use across the U.S. First declared in December 2018 by the U.S. Surgeon General, the youth e-cigarette use epidemic was fueled largely by Juul Labs for their suspected role in youth initiation caused by their sleek, discrete, and flavored e-cigarettes. Since then, Juul has stopped selling most of its flavored products, a large driver of youth product initiation and use; however, menthol and tobacco flavors remain on the market. Additionally, Juul modified or deleted their social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
This sounds like good news, right?
Unfortunately, these measures leave a lot to be desired for parents and others concerned about youth e-cigarette use. Most worrisome is that the FDA’s partial flavor ban, which began February 6, 2020, exempts a new category of completely disposable e-cigarettes. These new products are available in dozens of kid-friendly flavors like ‘O.M.G.’ (orange, mango, guava) and ‘blueberry ice.’ Because these new products, come pre-charged and pre-filled with flavored e-juice (unlike Juul) they are currently allowed to remain on the market, despite containing high concentrations of nicotine or “nic” salts like Juul. Concentrations are found anywhere from 3-7% depending on the brand, which is roughly equivalent to the nicotine found in 1-2 packs of cigarettes. By combining appealing flavors with high concentrations of nicotine, these new products are likely to continue attracting youth and increase nicotine addiction in an entire generation.
In Lancaster County youth use of e-cigarettes in 2019, measured by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, was 27.4% , up from 23.8% in 2015. In order to reverse increasing youth e-cigarette use rates, parents, teachers, coaches, and other youth leaders need to be aware of the new products flooding the market and targeting our youth. Some of the brands gaining popularity among youth and replacing Juul are Puff Bar, Plus Pods, Posh, and more. As regulation changes, the tobacco and e-cigarette industry will continue to adapt in order to find and addict consumers.
So, is there good news? Yes! You can help stop them. Talk to your kids. Ask them if they have heard of these products. Ask what they know or think about them. Remind them that most youth do not use e-cigarettes. Let them know you care and then work together to find the truth about tobacco and e-cigarettes – they are never safe for youth. If you would like to get involved, call 402-441-4605 for information about serving on the TFLC Youth Task Force.
Funding provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.