Vaping Crisis: Teens using flavored e-cigarettes more prone to addiction as staggering number of young users reported
Over 3.6 million children were using e-cigarettes, with fruit, menthol and mint favours gaining popularity.
Flavored e-cigarettes could be contributing to the teen vaping epidemic, according to a new study. Those vaping candy- or fruit-flavored e-cigarettes are more likely to get addicted to vaping, with 64.3% continuing the practice even after six months, as opposed to only 42.9% teens using only traditional flavors like tobacco or menthol.
Vaping among teens is escalating. In 2018, it was reported that over 3.6 million kids were using e-cigarettes, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. Fruit, menthol and mint flavors were by far the most popular flavors. Such figures have been a subject of distress for public health officials aiming to check the epidemic.
"Most adolescents report that flavored e-cigarettes were a key reason they took up vaping. We’re extremely concerned about flavors and the role that they play in hooking young people to a life of nicotine,” said Anne Schuchat, deputy director of the CDC, during testimony before the US House of Representatives on 24 and 25 September this year.
As per previous studies, e-cigarettes can cause health issues. Certain flavors — even without nicotine — have already been linked to allergic diseases like asthma. And more recently, CDC has issued a warning against the use of vaping or e-cigarettes containing a cannabis compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as they have been tied to a spike in lung injury cases in the US.
"While many children try e-cigarettes, not all become regular users. Teens who use e-cigarettes may be more inclined to continue vaping rather than just temporarily experiment with e-cigarettes," said Adam Leventhal, director of the USC Institute for Addiction Science and professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Whether or not children continue vaping is important — the longer and more frequently you vape, the more you're exposing yourself to toxins in e-cigarette aerosol and put yourself at risk for nicotine addiction."
So researchers from USC wanted to figure out the role non-traditional flavors played in addiction among teens. By tracking 478 Los Angeles-area adolescents who vaped, the team studied their smoking behavior, for two years, once every six months.
They found that addiction rates were higher and heavier in those using non-traditional flavors: 64.3% teens were vaping six months later. In contrast, only 42.9% used only traditional flavors like tobacco or menthol. The team reports that non-traditional flavors were more popular, with nine out of 10 people using them.
To address the issue, the scientists urge for regulations around the sale of such products. Earlier last month, the Trump administration announced a plan to ban e-cigarettes in flavors other than tobacco and yet these products still hold sway over the market.
"Regulations that reduce youth exposure to flavored e-cigarettes may aid in preventing young people who try e-cigarettes from becoming long-term e-cigarettes users, and also from inhaling more of aerosol into their lungs," Leventhal said. "Regulations like these could also encourage the millions of US adolescents who already use e-cigarettes to quit vaping, especially if they can no longer access e-cigarettes in the flavors they like."