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Adolescent vaping: Is it leading to addiction?

Vaping describes the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, commonly called vapor, produced by an e-cigarette.

Manufacturers introduced e-cigarettes to the market as an alternative to smoking and as a tool to help people quit smoking. But, because it has led to a trend of adolescents who have never smoked cigarettes beginning to vape and becoming addicted, has this effort backfired?

Overall, the prevalence of vaping has soared in the last few years. According to the American College of Physicians, there are 10.8 million adult e-cigarette users in the United States.

What the research says

The rate of increased use by adolescents is also high. The 2018 Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the University of Michigan Ann Arbor found that 37.3% of high school seniors had vaped in the last year. This is a big jump from 27.8% in 2017. The same survey found that 66.6% of high school juniors report vaping devices and liquids are easy to get.

By far, the device of choice among adolescents is the JUUL, a small device that resembles a flash drive. JUUL now has around 72% market share of vaping products in the U.S. The device's nondescript appearance makes it easy to conceal, which is likely why it is the top choice for young people. There are also a variety of sweet flavors appealing to them.

This trend is concerning. Nicotine is highly addictive and can inhibit brain development in teens. Plus there is a slew of harmful substances found in vaping liquid. These are unregulated and the damage they cause is unknown.

Some states are beginning efforts to counter this trend, which the U.S. Surgeon General has called an epidemic. Just this week, the Michigan governor ordered that state's health department to issue emergency rules prohibiting the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products, even to adults, and the misleading marketing of e-cigarettes.

Juvenile justice issues

Besides the health risks, underage teens caught using vapor products could face legal consequences. The minimum legal age for possession and use of these products in Tennessee is 18. According to state law, those caught in underage possession can be given a citation and required to appear in juvenile court.

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