Study Shows Vaping U.S. Teens Lured by Flavors, Not Nicotine
Vaping prevalence among youth has grown exponentially in recent years, but what substances youth vape is largely unknown.
Researchers asked nearly 15,000 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders about vaping in the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey, an annual nationally representative study that is administered by U-M and sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Vaporizers are battery-powered devices with a heating element. They produce an aerosol, also known as a vapor or mist, that users inhale. The aerosol may contain nicotine, although the specific contents of the vapor are proprietary and are not regulated. The liquid that is vaporized comes in hundreds of flavors.
Among youth in all three grades who had ever vaped, "just flavoring" was by far the most commonly vaped substance, with 59% to 62% of students reporting this answer in each grade. This answer was more common than all the others combined, says Richard Miech, the study's lead author.
Vaping of nicotine came in a distant second place at 20% to 22% among 10th- and 12th-grade students and 13% among 8th-graders.
Vaping of marijuana was reported by 6% to 7% of students in all grades, and the remainder either did not know what they had last vaped (6%, 7%, and 14% in grades 12, 10, and 8, respectively) or had vaped some other substance (1% or less in each grade).
Researchers suggest that health and medical organizations should adjust their intervention strategies with these findings in mind.
"Messages aimed at curbing vaporizer and e-cigarette use among youth may not be successful if these messages center around the dangers of nicotine, given that most youth who vape do not believe they are using nicotine," Miech says.
Efforts to ban the sale of vaporizers and e-cigarettes to youth on the grounds that these devices always intrinsically deliver harmful substances may not be supported by scientific studies. Other rationales to ban sales may be more effective, the researchers indicate.
The widely used technical term "ENDS," which stands for Electronic Nicotine Delivery System, may be inappropriate to describe e-cigarettes and other vaporizer devices among adolescents if most youth use them for other substances.
The findings appear in the online journal Tobacco Control.