November 15, 2023

Spreading the truth about flavored tobacco and youth vaping

A youth vaping curriculum is making a difference.

E-cigarette use among high school aged-youth is finally declining thanks to key preventive efforts, including the “Vaping: Know the Truth” free online program.

Youth vaping is a public health threat.

Evidence shows that vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes, can damage the lungs and harm brain development. Vaping makes young people more vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

“Despite the known risks, we continue to see high rates of vaping among youth. This is likely due to the misconception that vaping is less harmful than traditional cigarettes,” said Renee Fogelberg, MD,  clinical lead for tobacco cessation at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “The sweet flavors can entice youth to try vaping, and high doses of nicotine addict them — potentially for life.”

The 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey results show more than 2.1 million students report using an e-cigarette in the past month. That’s not all: Close to 90% of youth e-cigarette users smoke flavored products.

Fortunately, e-cigarette use among high school students declined significantly between 2022 and 2023. Educational programs and other prevention efforts are showing signs of success.

Free educational program will reach 1 million students

Kaiser Permanente worked with nonprofit health organization Truth Initiative to produce a program called “Vaping: Know the Truth.” This national educational program encourages a vape-free life. The program also offers resources for young people who use e-cigarettes to help them quit.

The program is available online for free to any school in America. It’s part of our Thriving Schools Initiative.

“Teaching young people the facts about vaping nicotine empowers them to make better choices,” said Amy Taylor, Truth Initiative chief of community engagement. “We’re grateful that Kaiser Permanente is helping us reach more students, parents, and educators — so we can be a resource to help young people cope and quit.”

The interactive course takes 45 minutes to complete. Its lessons offer information on the harmful ingredients inside e-cigarettes.

The course shows how the tobacco industry targets young people through various marketing strategies. The lessons also cover how addictive nicotine is and the health risks of using vaping devices.

Making an impact

By the end of the 2023 to 2024 school year, close to 1 million students will have completed this program. That’s 1 in 15 high school students nationwide.

A middle school teacher in Colorado shared a student’s reaction to the online course. The student said, “I didn’t realize how dangerous … and what chemicals were in there. I’m not gonna touch one of those again.”

The educational program is helping students better understand the dangers of vaping. A study tested students’ e-cigarette knowledge before and after completing the “Vaping: Know the truth” course. On average, knowledge increased by about 15% after completing the curriculum.

This is compelling evidence that “Vaping: Know the Truth” is a powerful tool to prevent youth from vaping and encourage them to quit.

“Reaching 1 million students is a key milestone,” said Stephanie Ledesma, vice president of community health programs for Kaiser Permanente. “Ending the youth vaping epidemic takes a comprehensive approach. It starts with education in schools and public policy changes.”