Disposable E-Cigarettes Linked to Higher Rates of Vaping Among American Youth: Study

Teens and young adults using disposable e-cigarettes were twice as likely to keep vaping than those who used non-disposable devices.

Amid ongoing concerns about the teen vaping epidemic in the United States, which has led to a new generation of American youths developing an addiction to nicotine, the findings of a new study highlight serious concerns about the popularity of disposable e-cigarettes, finding that teens and young adults who opt to use them are more likely to keep vaping, and do so more frequently.

Disposable vapes are cheaper, often flavored, and tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine salt, making them more addictive and increasing the likelihood that teens will continue to use e-cigarettes, researchers from the University of Southern California indicate in a report published this month in the journal Pediatrics.

E-cigarettes that are disposable have a limited number of puffs and battery life. They are meant to be used for a short time and thrown away. Manufacturers often make them in fruity and candy-like flavors and give them a high nicotine content.

Because they are much cheaper than reusable and refillable vapes, they are more accessible and more appealing for teens and young adults. However, due to the higher nicotine levels in many disposable e-cigarettes, they are much more addictive, with past research suggesting that high-nicotine vape formulations can be as addictive as smoking cigarettes.

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In this latest study, researchers analyzed data from teens ages 14 to 17 years-old and young adults ages 21 to 24 years-old from Southern California. They were surveyed about their vaping habits at the beginning of the study, and again eight months later from 2021 to 2022.

The researchers focused on participants who indicated, at the start of the study, that they had used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days. At the outset, 69% of participants reported using disposable e-cigarettes within the past 30 days. Comparatively, 31% said they used only non-disposable e-cigarettes.

The findings indicate those who used disposable e-cigarettes were almost twice as likely to continue vaping than those using non-disposable devices. In addition, they were also 29% more likely to vape during any given day.

Participants who used disposable devices were also less likely to reduce their e-cigarette use, take fewer puffs per day, or quit compared to participants who used non-disposable e-cigarettes, according to the findings.

Data also indicated that there was no difference between those who exclusively used disposable devices, and those who used a mix of the two.

“Use of disposable e-cigarette devices among adolescents and young adults may be associated with higher risks for persistent e-cigarette use patterns, which should be considered in tobacco product regulation designed to protect adolescents and young adults,” the researchers concluded.

Youth Vaping Concerns

Concerns over the health risks vapes pose to users are growing, and include concerns about damage to the lungs, heart and DNA. In addition, research published earlier this year, found that teens who vape are also more likely to suffer from major depression.

Studies have also show teens who vape are more likely to binge drink and smoke weed, and that FDA enforcement efforts seem to have had little effect on reducing teen vaping overall.

Prior research has warned that e-cigarette manufacturers target teens with marketing language and imagery that attempts to popularize their look and minimize the health risks. Even though recent surveys have found that teen vaping rates are declining after years of increases, research shows one-in-five high schoolers still use e-cigarettes.

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