Surgeon General Now Calls Vaping an ‘Epidemic’

In the three years I was a School Resource Officer in a city with 14,000 students, I confiscated only one pack of cigarettes. I confiscated a vaping device on nearly a weekly basis. I took five years from when I first came in contact with a student’s vape for the US Surgeon General to declare vaping an epidemic among our youth. Juul, the e-cigarette giant, is a big part of the problem. The Surgeon General’s declaration isn’t a new policy or enforcement action against vape companies or retailers. But it is a call to action that follows news that teen vaping is skyrocketing.

Monitoring the Future, an annual survey of American teenagers’ drug use sponsored by the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse and conducted by the University of Michigan, reported that teen use of e-cigarettes soared in 2018.

The survey, which polls eighth, 10th and 12th graders across the country, found the rise in nicotine vaping was the largest spike for any substance recorded by the study in 44 years. About 21 percent of high school seniors had vaped within the previous 30 days, researchers found, compared to about 11 percent a year ago.

The survey also found that many students believe they are vaping “just flavoring.” In fact, just about all brands include nicotine, and Juul has particularly high levels of it.

Overall, 3.6 million middle and high school students are now vaping regularly, according to a government study released last month. Adolescents are uniquely vulnerable to addiction. One of the major problems surrounding vaping and breaking the myth vaping is safe, is the lack of data on how dangerous vaping truly is to your health. Nicotine is not a new drug. We understand its addictive nature and its effects on the brain, but is that enough to change a teen’s mind about vaping in the first place?

The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which affects judgment and impulse, is still maturing. “When you flood it with nicotine, you are interrupting development,” Dr. Picciotto said. Psychiatrists say that nicotine can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions; it can also lead to hyperactivity, depression and anxiety.

I teach an assembly to teens on this subject, it is called, The Truth About Vaping. I try a different tactic. I reveal the vaping industry’s game plan to market an extremely addictive product to them. They are the modern snake oil salesmen. The vaping industry, JUUL, Soren, and Phix to name a few, are literally ripping off big tobacco’s marking plan from 60 years ago. They are selling the same lie big tobacco did 60 years ago, it is safe, it is cool, and it is okay around others. I systematically break down each of these lies. The response I get from students is they are angry that the vaping industry thinks they are dumb enough to fall for it. Is this realization enough to counter the nature of adolescence itself? In the eyes of a teenager, vaping is stylish, everyone is doing it, and it’s enticingly forbidden.

The number one safety factor in a child’s life is a parent who talks to their child about important issues. How do you talk to your child about vaping? I have created a resource I give out at my parent seminars on vaping. Please download it and begin a dialog with your child about vaping.

For more information, attend a parent vaping seminar near you. If you would like to know how to host a student vaping assembly or parent vaping seminar, fill out our contact form.

Table of Contents

About the Author

Clayton Cranford
Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit. Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.