Special Report: E-Cigarette use among teens

An estimated 450,000 middle school students are now experimenting with vaping.

WAVY News 10

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — E-cigarette use is exploding across the country, with teens picking up the habit at an alarming rate. An estimated 2 million high school students and 450,000 middle school students are experimenting with vaping.

As an aspiring young singer, Kurt Lannetti is keen on protecting his pipes from vapor clouds that sometimes surround him. The Norfolk high school freshman is well aware of the trend. He described where he sees others vaping, “back of the classrooms, PE,  behind the bleachers”.

“In the classrooms?” 10 On Your side asked. “Some of the teachers don’t care” Lannetti replied.

E-Cigarette use among teens is rising in part because some say they are safer than regular cigarettes. The health risks of E-Cigs, however, are still greatly unknown.

The allure for some, Lannetti told WAVY.com,  is overwhelming. Candy flavors and pictures shared on social media make it look cool. There are even online videos that teach teens how to create vapor designs and advertisers use themes like sex, and independence
to sell them.

Many doctors fear unrestricted ads could reverse decades of progress against tobacco use. “The ones that are most advertised in your gas stations, 7-Eleven, etc. are owned by tobacco companies, the same ones who sold us cigarettes,”  warned Dr. Kelli England Will,  an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

England Will recently received a large grant to study Hampton Roads tween and teen experiences with E-Cigarettes. While her work has just begun, a recent  CDC report shows nationwide, nearly 70 percent  of middle and high school students see E-Cigarette ads and use among high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014 to 13 percent.

England Will told WAVY.com, “To be able to reach the teen audience we really have to understand where they are coming from.” Using information from teens and medical professionals her team from EVMS will develop outreach campaigns to turn the tide on this trend.  It’s just a matter of finding what resonates.

If you are a teen who wants to participate in the study or you are a parent of a teen that wants to be involved you can send an email to Dr. England Will at: vapestudy@evms.edu