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What's driving the trend of school-age kids vaping?

Scripps News spoke with drug control expert Jim Carroll about the marketing strategies used to target vape products to children.
What's driving the trend of school-age kids vaping?
Posted at 3:31 PM, Nov 20, 2023

A recent survey shows alarming trends in youth tobacco use in the U.S., including among children as young as middle school-aged.

The CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey shows this year, tobacco use among high schoolers dropped about four percentage points, but use among middle schoolers increased by about two. There are about 2.8 million youths who use some form of tobacco product.

The CDC says 1 in 4 middle and high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes on a daily basis this year.

This young cohort has an overwhelming preference for flavored vape products that taste like candy or fruit.

Scripps News spoke with Jim Carroll, former White House director of national drug control policy, about the trend and the factors driving it.

"What we're seeing is the intentional marketing of these illegal products to middle schoolers. They're going after our really vulnerable children," Carroll said. "They are being preyed upon by Chinese cartels that are marketing these products right at them."

"The top two flavors that are being sold and used by our school age kids are blue cotton candy and rainbow. They know exactly what they're doing. They're using these flavors because they know that they're appealing to kids," Carroll said.

SEE MORE: More middle schoolers are using tobacco while high school use falls

"A lot of these kids don't even understand the dangers," he said. "They probably think it's candy. I mean, it's marketed like that. It's marketed like a toy. So why would they even think there's a danger?"

The sale of vape and tobacco products to minors is illegal in the U.S. Experts have called for greater regulation on sales to keep tobacco out of the hands of kids — and for enforcement of existing rules.

"In addition to talking to their kids, parents need to talk to lawmakers and say 'Enforce the laws are on the books.'"

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