The Vaping Epidemic

The Vaping Epidemic

What you need to know

By JoAnna Strother

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are tobacco products that have been sold in the U.S. for about a decade. They include e-pens, e-pipes, e-hookah and e-cigars, known collectively as ENDS—electronic nicotine delivery systems. They’re also sometimes called JUULs, “vapes” and “vape pens.” E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products among kids—and it’s become an epidemic.

Why Vaping Appeals to Teens

According to a 2018 CDC study, the primary reasons teens use these products is because the candy and fruit flavors are appealing to them, their friends and family are using them, and they think e-cigarettes are less harmful. More than one in four high school students who use e-cigarettes use them regularly. Now more than 3 million high school students use e-cigarettes—up from 220,000 in 2011.

While much remains to be determined about the lasting health consequences of e-cigarettes, there’s evolving evidence about the health risks of e-cigarettes on the lungs—including irreversible lung damage and lung disease. Recently, the CDC and state and local departments of health are actively investigating a cluster of pulmonary injuries and multiple deaths reportedly linked to vaping. The investigation is ongoing. 

The American Lung Association offers several youth programs to help educate youth on e-cigarette use, empower them to be leaders of tobacco-free community efforts, and quit tobacco products, if they currently use.


A new program offered by the American Lung Association called INDEPTH is an alternative to a suspension or citation program that is offered as an option to students who face suspension for violation of school tobacco, vaping, or nicotine use policies. Instead of exclusionary discipline, students participate in a series of interactive educational sessions focused on nicotine addiction, establishing healthy alternatives and making the change to be free of all nicotine and tobacco products.

To learn more about e-cigarettes, visit

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JoAnna Strother is a policy expert for the American Lung Association in Arizona.

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