Nearly twice as many high schoolers used e-cigarettes this year than the last. It's the result of an annual teen survey in American high schools. It's also the largest single-year increase in the survey's history. WAAY 31 wanted to know what's behind the dramatic shift and learned it likely comes down to one thing: flavors.
"They especially think that the flavor, the different flavors, and things like that are what's leading to higher usage by teenagers," said Kaki Morrow, the Community Development Manager for the local American Cancer Society.
Vape shops offer dozens of varieties of flavors to choose from like coffee, berry, mint and desserts. While the flavors may smell good, they still contain nicotine that puts kids at risk.
"We know that with youth usage, it can lead to long term nicotine, cigarette, tobacco usage, which is not good," said Morrow.
The University of Michigan survey mirrors federal government research from earlier this year. Morrow said her agency is urging lawmakers to make it tougher for kids to get their hands on vaping products. She said parents and retailers must do their part.
"I would encourage parents and retailers and even manufacturers of these e-cigarettes to really look into and prevent youth usage."
Eco-Smoke on University Drive said that's exactly what they're working to do. They have measures in place to not sell to minors including an ID scanning machine and not selling to parents who bring their teens into the store with them.
"If you're actually younger than 12, I'm sorry, you can come in. Anything older, we ask that they do stay outside," said the owner, Chris Ray.
The current age to legally purchase a vape and juice is 19, but kids are getting around that by buying from convenience stores where ID isn't checked.
JUUL reached out to us and provided the following statement:
“JUUL Labs is committed to preventing youth from initiating on nicotine. As we said before, our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products. But intent is not enough, we must act to solve this problem which is why we are implementing the JUUL Labs Action Plan to address underage use of JUUL products. We stopped the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our Web site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts and are developing new technology to further limit youth access. We are committed to working with FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort.”