Business Group Blog

The Vaping Epidemic: We're at Risk of Reversing a Two-Decade Decline in Youth Smoking

The statistics are alarming. Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use rose by more than 75% for high school teens and by nearly 50% for middle school-age children. Moreover, many youth don't realize that e-cigarettes are harmful and contain nicotine. The most commonly sold e-cigarette, the Juul cartridge, contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.

In response, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, declared vaping among U.S. teens an epidemic.

We need to protect our kids from all tobacco products, including all shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes.

Furthermore, vaping is not limited to nicotine products; e-cigarettes provide an easy to conceal vehicle for ingesting marijuana and other drugs, making it difficult for parents and school officials to detect illegal drug use by teens.

While tobacco cessation remains a priority, e-cigarettes are not FDA-approved for smoking cessation, and evidence of their effectiveness as a quitting aid remains extremely weak.

Large employers have been leaders in treating e-cigarettes as other tobacco products and banning their use in the workplace. Several states and localities have also enacted laws to prohibit their use in restaurants, bars and worksites. In a stark irony, Juul employees are no longer allowed to use e-cigarettes in the office due to California law.

Actions Employers Can Take

  • Include e-cigarettes in tobacco-free workplace policies and communicate to the workforce that smoking in any form—including vaping—is prohibited
  • Explicitly communicate that vaping and smoking are equivalent for the purpose of the employer incentive, benefits plan design and/or tobacco user surcharge
  • Revise tobacco-free incentives to include adult dependents
  • Educate parents on the teen vaping epidemic and share helpful resources, such as the Surgeon General’s Talk with Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents, and encourage them to become familiar with and support school policies to crack down on vaping
  • Encourage parents and providers to be thoughtful about the language used when discussing e-cigarettes with teens. Dr. Susanne Tanski, an associate pediatrics professor at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has found that teens will say “no” when asked about e-cigarettes;  instead adults should ask about Juuling or vaping

This epidemic requires our collective action. Let’s protect the next generation of our nation, and our workforce, from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.