Teen Drug Use Survey Shows Vaping is On the Rise


The latest teen drug use survey reveals that use of vaping devices and e-liquids have increased.

The latest teen drug use survey reveals that use of vaping devices and e-liquids have increased. The Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) examines teen drug use and behavior among students in grades 8, 10, and 12 across the nation.1 The survey is conducted each year by the University of Michigan, and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Pharmacists can play an important role in educating teens about the dangers of drug abuse through patient counseling, and community outreach programs.

Trends in Vaping Among Teens

Vaping involves inhaling vapors that may include nicotine, using battery-powered devices such as e-cigarettes, “mods,” JUULs, and e-pens.1 Nicotine vaping among teens increased in 2017 with an annual prevalence in grades 8, 10, and 12 of 8%, 16%, and 19% respectively.1 Nicotine vaping is now more common than cigarette use based on the study results.1 Additionally, the annual prevalence of marijuana vaping was high at 3%, 8%, and 10% among students in grades 8, 10, and 12.1 Vaping with “just flavoring” was the highest use with annual prevalence levels of 12%, 19%, and 21% among all the surveyed grades.1 In 2017, MTF asked for the first time about the availability of vaping devices and e-liquids. The study showed that 78% of students in grade 12 could fairly or very easily obtain vaping devices.1 Additionally, 75% of 12th grade students could fairly or very easily obtain e-liquids.1

Dangerous New Trend: Juuling

The FDA created rules regarding prohibiting electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) sales to customers under the age of 18 years in 2016.2 Additionally, there have been reports of injuries due to e-cigarette battery explosions, and accidental ingestion of e-liquids. The latest trend is 'Juuling,' or using a JUUL, which is a brand of e-cigarette made by JUUL Labs Inc.3 A JUUL device looks very similar to a computer USB flash drive, so it is easy for teens to hide these from parents, and teachers. These devices are battery operated, and work by heating a pod of e-liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. JUUL comes in flavors that appeal to kids, such as mango, cool mint, and fruit medley. Additionally, JUUL is highly addictive, and contains more than twice the amount of nicotine found in other e-cigarettes. Research demonstrates that Juuling is a gateway to traditional tobacco cigarettes.3

The FDA has implemented an action plan to prevent youth access to JUUL and other e-cigarettes and has issued 40 warning letters for illegal sales to youth.4 Part of this plan includes requesting information from JUUL labs regarding the product marketing, health research, toxicology, product behavioral effects, and ingredients.4 Pharmacists can play an important role in educating teens, parents, and teachers about the dangers of JUUL, and other ENDS products.

Alcohol Use Remains High

The MTF results reveal that alcohol is the most widely used substance among teens, even though it has declined in recent years.1 Approximately 62% of grade 12 students have consumed more than a few sips of alcohol.1 Also, 45% of students in grade 12 reported having been intoxicated at least once in their life.1 Pharmacists can counsel parents, and teens on the potential for alcohol poisoning caused by drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time, which can lead to seizures, hypothermia, loss of consciousness, and death.


  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future 2017. NIDA website. http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-vol1_2017.pdf. Accessed June 1, 2018.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaporizers, e-cigarettes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). FDA website. www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/labeling/productsingredientscomponents. Accessed June 1, 2018.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. JUULING: Get the facts. AAP website. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/tobacco/Pages/Juuling-Get-the-Facts.aspx. Accessed June 1, 2018.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new enforcement actions and a youth tobacco prevention plan to stop youth use of, and access to, Juul and other e-cigarettes [news release]. Silver Spring, MD: April 24, 2018; FDA website. https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm605432.htm. Accessed June 1, 2018.

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