FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Despite federal and local laws banning the sale of ecigarettes in stores to keep them out of the hands of teenagers, vaping among middle and high school students is on the rise, according to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The product is so popular and dangerous among teens that about two million middle and high school students in the U.S. are linked to e-cigarettes use – 14 percent of them are high school students and 3.3 percent in middle school.
Some are as young as 10 years-old.
The nationwide numbers reflect e-cigarettes use among teens in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where illegally they get hold of the flavored vaping products that are a direct health threat.
According to U.S. Rep. Sheila CherﬁlusMcCormick from South Florida, teenagers can get their hands on vaping products thanks to a loophole created by President Trump’s administration that allows for the sale of flavored e-cigarettes if the delivery device is disposable.
In 2020, the Trump Administration took a half-step forward by prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes such as fruity pebbles and bubble gum, but only for e-cigarettes that required a cartridge reﬁll.
Cherﬁlus-McCormick, who’s proposing legislation (the Disposable Ends Product Enforcement Act of 2023) to close the loophole, said that left an opening for companies to swoop in and sell disposable versions of the e-cigarettes with the very same flavors intended to be taken off the shelves to keep them away from children.
As a result, more teens are using vaping products because they contain flavors specially intended to entice children to become hooked on nicotine for life, causing a nationwide epidemic, she said.
“As the mother of two children and a former healthcare executive, I am pleased to introduce this critical legislation,” said Cherﬁlus-McCormick. “Too many of our youth are forming nicotine addictions, increasing their risk of future addiction to other drugs. I am even more troubled by the fact that Chinese manufacturers and suppliers are flooding the U.S. market with unregulated, harmful substances that are altering our children’s brain development and lives."
Cherﬁlus-McCormick said she’s calling on the Biden administration to close the loophole for the sake of youth and to put an end to the national epidemic.
According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey published by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disposable e-cigarettes are the device currently mostly used by youth.
That number has soared since the loophole was created by the Trump Administration in 2020 and is causing a public health crisis among our children.
In Florida, roughly 1,750 youth under the age of 18 become new daily smokers each year.
In addition, about 270,000 youth under the age of 18 who live in Florida will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.
“This study shows that our nation’s youth continue to be enticed and hooked by an expanding variety of ecigarette brands delivering flavored nicotine,” said Dr. Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of CDC’s Ofﬁce on Smoking and Health. “It’s critical that we prevent youth from starting to use any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, and help all youth who do use them, to quit.”
A 2021 study by the University of Miami’s Area Health Education Center in collaboration with Children’s Trust found that electronic vapor product use among teens rose from 2.60 percent to 16.50 percent in the past decade despite Congress passing legislation to ban the sale of vaping products to people under 21.
“A lot more nurses, at school health clinics, are saying vaping is a huge problem,” said Sabine Dulcio, an associate director of programs at Children’s Trust. "Of particular concern is the marketing of different flavors for e-cigarettes, a not-so-subtle ploy to attract younger users.”
In 2015, Broward County banned the use of e-cigarettes in county facilities, however, since flavored disposable e-cigarettes are still available under federal law, they can be sold outside the city limits and made readily available to the children living in the county.
An estimated 15 percent of youth in Broward currently use e-cigarettes.
To counter this epidemic, Broward County Public Schools and MiamiDade County Public Schools each developed a tiered curriculum structure for students to provide greater awareness regarding prevention and intervention resources.
Anna Rhodes, a media specialist for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said the school district raises awareness about the dangers of vaping use among students and tackles the issue through the Code of Student of Conduct.
According to the Code of Student Conduct, students who are caught on school grounds with cigarettes and vaping products can face disciplinary actions and counseling.
"An example was a student caught using an electronic cigarette in the stairwell," Rhodes said.
The American Heart Association supports Cherilus-McCormick’s legislation to further ban e-cigarettes use among youth.
“The American Heart Association appreciates Rep. Cherﬁlus-McCormick’s leadership to close the disposable e-cigarette loophole, which has kept dangerous products with kidfriendly flavors on the market and easily accessible to our nation’s youth," said Mark Schoeberl, Executive Vice President of the American Heart Association. "Big Tobacco has been successfully manipulating loopholes such as this one in its ongoing attempts to hook youth and adults to its harmful products.
"The Disposable ENDS Product Enforcement Act will provide FDA with a vital tool to hold the tobacco industry accountable and move us one step closer to the Tobacco Endgame.”