- E-cigarette maker Juul announced this week that it plans to pull mango, fruit, crème, and cucumber-flavored pods from store shelves, require additional age verification steps for online sales of these flavors, delete its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and cease the promotion of the e-cigarettes on Twitter, USA Today reports.
- The plan was announced two months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was requiring e-cigarette companies to submit “robust” plans to discourage youth vaping. In addition, the FDA plans to ban sales of youth-friendly flavors of e-cigarettes at gas stations and convenience stores and is issuing stricter age requirements for e-cigarette sales online.
- The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the plan is “too little, too late,” as e-cigarettes, which were reportedly designed to reduce adult tobacco use, have already captured a large share of the youth market. However, several cities are also pursuing legal action against e-cigarette companies, so the fight may not be ending soon.
Vaping is a concern for many school administrators because of its widespread nature, its associated health concerns, and the ease with which students can acquire the product. With the FDA’s recent declaration that youth vaping is an epidemic and the American Medical Association lending support to deter youth from the habit, the government is increasing e-cigarette regulations related to youth accessibility and targeted advertising. Since more than eight of every 10 youth vape users report using flavored products, the restrictions on these flavors may discourage use.
Overall tobacco use, as well as vaping, has decreased in recent years. According to data from the CDC, 3.9 million middle and high school students reported tobacco use in 2016. While that number is alarming, it is a steep decline from the estimated 4.7 million who reported tobacco use in 2015. But vaping, which was initially targeted to adults who want to quit smoking, has been a growing trend among young people. According the Truth Initiative, a non-profit public health organization set up 20 years ago as a part of a tobacco settlement, 15- to 17-year-olds are 16 times more likely than 24- to 34-year-olds to use Juul products.
Schools can help by enforcing rules against vaping and by educating students about its dangers. Many doctors argue that vaping is a gateway to smoking for young people because of addiction to nicotine. Some studies also suggest that vaping and other forms of tobacco use may also be a gateway to drug use. However, while vaping has many of the same harmful effects of other forms of tobacco use, young people perceive it as much safer. In a recent Gallup poll, 83% of people 18-29 considered smoking to be very harmful, while only 22% considered vaping in that light. With consistent education about the facts, schools can help change that perception.