The Vaping Crisis - Business Fallout & What Organizations Need to Know
September 25, 2019
As the popularity of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed among teenagers in the past few years, medical professionals and parents have increasing concerns around extreme addiction behaviors, not commonly witnessed in tobacco users. They are reporting similarities in behavior with people struggling with substance abuse disorders—things like stealing from parents or selling paraphernalia to support their habits. In 2018, more than 37% of 12th graders reported vaping at least once in the past 12 months, according to findings released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, even though many of those teens are below the legal age to purchase these products. The teenage brain is particularly vulnerable to addiction, due to the fact that it’s not yet fully developed. This impacts impulse control and can lead to impaired judgement. There is a phenomenon amongst teenagers called the adolescent fable– a personal belief that they are special and unique and believe that none of life’s difficulties will affect them, regardless of their behavior; which leads to risk-taking behaviors.
Despite those beliefs, in the recent news, we’ve seen the reality–stories of teenagers riddled with respiratory problems from daily vaping. Parents are beginning to file class action lawsuits against e-cigarette manufacturers as a result. Just this morning, Juul announced that it’s CEO would step down, and that the company would not lobby the Trump administration on it’s ban of flavored vapor products, and would end it’s “Make the Switch” campaign which portrays it’s e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes.
With the level of use, regulators stepping in to halt sales and local shops looking at having to shut down, where do we go from here? There is a serious concern that the treatment options that help adult smokers quit, such as nicotine patches, gums, and medication, lack the evidence of effectiveness in youth populations, according to Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital who specializes in tobacco cessation.
This is an issue that the current system isn’t fully prepared to address. Getting struggling teens connected with a behavioral health and addiction specialist can be effective. They can work together to identify personal triggers and implement harm reduction and relapse prevention strategies. However, it seems clear that this is an issue that needs addressed at the systemic level.