Washington, DC: CDC reports – If anyone can speak firsthand about the significant rise in e-cigarette use by kids, teens, and young adults, it’s someone who works with them every day. Lauren W., a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, often hears her students talking about using e-cigarettes. But when it comes to the dangers of nicotine and addiction for young people, she does not believe they really understand how dangerous e-cigarettes are for their health.

“I talk to them about the risks all the time,” she says, “and those talks reveal that they have never really thought about it.”

As someone who can influence young people, Lauren is doing what she can to teach them about the harms e-cigarette use can have on them. “They are always interested when I pull up research and start listing off findings,” she says.

This fall, as young people get ready to return to school, you have the power to start the conversation. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a coach—or even a health care professional helping to make sure kids start the new school year in good health—you have an important part to play when it comes to talking to kids about the harms of e-cigarettes.

Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product pdf icon[PDF–808 KB] among US middle and high school students. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, the number of youth who used e-cigarettes went up by 1.5 million. In fact, the US Surgeon Generalexternal icon has called e-cigarette use by youth an “epidemic,” and warned that it threatens decades of progress toward making sure fewer young people use tobacco.

Research also shows that e-cigarette advertising uses many of the same themes that have led to cigarette smoking among young people. In 2016, nearly 7 out of 10 US middle and high school students saw ads for e-cigarettes pdf icon[PDF–3.69 MB] in stores, on the Internet, on TV, or in magazines or newspapers.

Advertising can also make e-cigarette use look harmless for young people. Lauren, the high school teacher, says that most of her students know that regular cigarettes cause disease and even death. However, she says most of them don’t know that nicotine in e-cigarettes can harm brain development, or that e-cigarettes can be dangerous to youth for other reasons, too.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the highly addictive drug in tobacco. Nicotine is especially harmful to young people. The human brain keeps developing until around the age of 25. Using products with nicotine under age 25 can harm the part of the brain responsible for memory, attention, and learning.

Many young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke regular cigarettes. There is evidence that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke regular cigarettes in the future. Also, even though the liquid that e-cigarettes heat to form an aerosol (vapor) has fewer harmful ingredients than cigarette smoke, it still contains harmful ingredients—including heavy metals and even cancer-causing chemicals—that can be breathed deep into the lungs. The part of the e-cigarette that heats up may also explode or cause serious burns.


WHAT ARE THE RISKS FOR YOUTH? • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can: » Harm brain development, which continues until about age 25. » Impact learning, memory, and attention. » Increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. • Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to go on to use regular cigarettes. • Many e-cigarettes come in kid-friendly flavors – including mango, fruit, and crème – which make e-cigarettes more appealing to young people. • E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful substances, including: » Nicotine » Cancer-causing chemicals » Volatile organic compounds » Ultrafine particles » Flavorings that have been linked to lung disease » Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.