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Most Teens Who Use E-Cigarettes Have Tried to Quit

  • August 31, 2021
  • Addiction, Patients and Families

More than half of middle and high schoolers who use e-cigarettes said that they intend to quit and about two-thirds had tried to quit during the past year, according to a recent study in Pediatrics.

Study author Hongying Dai, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, looked at the responses of more than 1,600 middle and high school students who had used e-cigarettes in the past month. Males were more likely to say they intended to quit than females.

Another recent study from researchers at the Truth Initiative led by Alicia Cuccia, M.S., surveyed more than 1,000 youth and young adults, 15 to 36 years of age, and similarly found that a majority of young e-cigarette users want to quit. Among current e-cigarette users, 54% reported general intentions to quit and 15% reported serious intentions to quit (within the next 30 days). One in three youth and young adults had tried to quit in the past year.

When looking at possible motivations or factors associated with intending or attempting to quit, both studies found that those perceiving greater harm from vaping were more likely to intend to quit.

Among the middle and high school e-cigarette users in the Dai study, those who perceived the use of e-cigarettes to be harmful were more than twice as likely to intend to quit vaping within the year than those who did not perceive vaping as harmful. Notably, more than 40% saw little or no harm in e-cigarette use.

Another factor influencing young people’s intent to quit was friends’ use of e-cigarettes. The Cuccia study found that those with friends using e-cigarettes were more likely to attempt to quit. Similarly, the Dai study found that those using e-cigarettes out of curiosity or because a friend had used them were more likely to intend to quit, compared with those who used them to conceal their smoking at home or school.

Overall, teen use of e-cigarettes saw a decrease in 2020 from 2019, as did the use of all tobacco products, according to the latest National Youth Tobacco Survey from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, e-cigarettes are the most common tobacco product used by teens. The FDA notes one concerning finding from the survey—a surge in youth using disposable e-cigarettes and the number of teens using those regularly. Between 2019 and 2020 the use of disposable e-cigarettes increased from 2% to 27% among high schoolers and from 3 to 15% among middle schoolers. Almost a quarter of high schoolers and nearly 10% of middle schoolers report using e-cigarettes every day. (See infographic of the survey results.)

Cuccia and colleagues conclude that their findings highlight “a critical need for policies and resources to promote and sustain e-cigarette cessation among young people.” Dai noted in an email to Psychiatric News that based on his findings, it’s important to “deliver the message that e-cigarettes, just like cigarettes, will increase the risks of nicotine addiction, respiratory injury, cardiovascular illnesses, and other tobacco-related diseases.”


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