Teen Vaping: A Rising Concern!

Teen Vaping and Holding Juul Vape Pen

Every year since 1975, the NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey provides valuable insight into drug use and related trends of American youth. The most recent results of the 2018 MTF survey delivered some shocking news: skyrocketing in Teen Vaping and the use of nicotine in E-cigarette and vaping devices since 2017.

Teen Vaping & e-cigarette use doubled last year

Between January 2017 and January 2018:

  • The percentage of 12th graders who reported vaping nicotine in the past month nearly doubled, from 11 percent to nearly 21 percent
  • The increase among 10th graders was similar, escalating from 8.2 percent to 16.1 percent
  • Current vaping increased from 3.5 percent in 2017 to 6.1 percent in 2018 among 8th graders
  • The reported increases roughly translate to 1.3 million more adolescents using e-cigarettes in 2018.

These changes in nicotine consumption by teen vaping have by far been the most profound one-year increases recorded for any substance in the history of the MTF survey.

An E-cigarette PenThe results from this survey are consistent with data from the federal government’s latest National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), published a month earlier.

NYTS presented a 78 percent increase in high school student e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018 and an almost 50% increase in current use among middle school students.

Is vaping harmless?

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that generate vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine substances, devised to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, without actually the smoke.

What makes this an alarming development is the perception of vaping being harmless, promoted by the manufacturers of vaping devices as a healthier alternative. Vaping is propagated as harmless because it does not involve the burning of tobacco which is the primary source of carcinogenic tar in conventional cigarette smoke.

Yet, there is increasing evidence surrounding the dangers of vaping on the respiratory system, which can potentially contribute to long-term respiratory problems as observed with smoking tobacco. Research also suggests that the vaping process in itself can be harmful to the vital immune system cells by initiating cellular and functional changes in these cells.

Several other studies have assessed the fluctuations in the composition of e-cigarette vapor and have identified several various chemicals that could be toxic.

Why prevention is important?

Nicotine is known to stimulate the firing of dopamine neurons which enhances the saliency of rewarding stimuli, rendering the brain more sensitive to the effects of drugs and increasing the risk for addiction.

Previous research and epidemiological data have highlighted nicotine as a gateway to abusing other substances. Especially since early initiation of addictive substances leads to a greater risk of addiction in life, preventing nicotine exposure among adolescents needs to be taken seriously.

The 2018 survey data also comes as a shock because surveys in 2016 found a declining trend of all tobacco products among American teens. Especially with the wild popularity of products such as Juul (a brand of e-cigarette), and given the high exposure of teens to e-cig advertising, smoking behavior is again becoming a glamorized trend. This trend may further facilitate the transition toward conventional cigarettes alongside other substances.

Teen Vaping Blowing Out Smoke“The bottom line is we have never seen the use of any (monitored) substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly.

This is an unprecedented challenge,” summed up the Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, in a press conference.

“We are at risk of a huge share of a whole generation developing an addiction to nicotine — and that is not a future anyone wants for our country.”

Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than cigarettes. If you are a parent of a high-school student, it might be necessary to broach the subject of vaping and its probable harmful effects. Early prevention can pave the way for a healthier life into adulthood.


1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/12/monitoring-future-survey-results-show-alarming-rise-in-teen-vaping
2. https://www.medpagetoday.com/pulmonology/smoking/77106
3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/teens-e-cigarettes

About the Author:

Sana Ahmed photoSana Ahmed is a journalist and social media savvy content writer with extensive research, print, and on-air interview skills. She has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from the London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. Her recent work has largely been focused upon mental health and addiction recovery.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on May 6, 2019
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 6, 2019
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.