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As state and federal officials begin to recognize that there is a growing epidemic in the U.S. involving teens addicted to JUUL and other e-cigarettes, the findings of a new survey highlight a key source of the problem, as many young adults do not appreciate the dangers of vaping, and many actually believe it is harmless.
Researchers from the American Society of Clinical Oncology published the findings of the third annual National Cancer Opinion Survey on September 24, indicating that one out of four young adults surveyed believe vaping is not addictive, and 30% believe flavored e-cigarettes are less harmful that non-flavored ones.
According to the findings of an online Harris Poll conducted from July 9 to August 10, 2019, one-fifth of young adults use e-cigarettes regularly. The survey involved a large nationally representative poll of the general public, involving 4,000 adults age 18 and older.
The information about the lack of awareness about vaping addiction risks comes as many regulators and legislators are just starting to combat the problem involving a new generation of youth addicted to nicotine from JUUL and other e-cigarettes.
Most of the recent focus on vaping has come amid an on-going investigation into a multi-state outbreak of severe lung illnesses among users of the products. More than 800 confirmed cases of vaping lung illnesses have been identified nationwide, including at least 15 deaths.
The survey results indicate the belief that e-cigarettes are harmless is more prevalent among younger generations than older generations.
Roughly 20% of generation Z, which includes individuals ages 18 to 22, and 24% of Millennials, people ages 23 to 38, believe vaping is harmless. But among Generation X, people ages 39 to 54, only 17% believe this and 10% among Baby Boomers ages 55 to 72.
Researchers saw similar findings when participants were asked if they believed it was not possible for someone to become addicted to e-cigarettes. Only 14% of Baby Boomers believed this compared to 24% of Millennials and 22% of Gen Z.
Similarly, 27% of Gen Z participants and 29% of Millennials believe flavored e-cigarettes are less damaging to a person’s health than non-flavored e-cigarettes. However, only 12% of Baby Boomers believed this.
However, with concerns about vaping illness and underage use rising, seven in 10 Americans support raising the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. One in eight Americans report vaping regularly and 80% of those also currently smoke or have smoked traditional tobacco cigarettes. Roughly 20% Millennials are regular daily users of e-cigarettes compared to 18% of Gen Z, 15% of Gen X, and 5% of Baby Boomers.
Researchers warn that the beliefs young adults have about vaping are similar to early beliefs about tobacco cigarettes, making it even more important for the facts concerning e-cigarettes to be shared widely.
“These beliefs among young adults about e-cigarettes parallel early misperceptions about tobacco products,” said ASCO President Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO. “Education is crucial to correcting misinformation and preventing what could become a public health crisis.”
About three-quarters of parents surveyed said they’ve talked to their children about the dangers of vaping, but 17% know their child has tried it. Additionally, 7% said their child uses e-cigarettes regularly.
“We should do everything in our power to prevent a generation of young people from becoming addicted to nicotine, regardless of how it is delivered,” said Dr. Burris. “We’re also concerned about the potential for e-cigarettes to become a gateway for youth to use cancer-causing tobacco products and the serious side effects that are beginning to emerge.”
A growing number of JUUL addiction lawsuits are now being filed on behalf of teenagers, young adults and other adults who indicate that they have developed a life-long nicotine problem due to false and misleading advertisements made for years about the vape pen, leaving them unable to stop vaping or progressing to traditional cigarettes. Many of the lawsuits indicate that the teenagers did not know JUUL products contained nicotine or that they could be addictive.