There is an epidemic besides COVID-19 going on. It’s the youth vaping epidemic.

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) shows about 50% of Vermont’s high school students have ever used an electronic vapor product (EVP). In Washington County, 53% of high school students have used an EVP. Diving deeper, 26.4% of Vermont’s youth were currently using EVPs at the time of the survey. That’s more than doubled since the 2017 YRBS when it was 12%. In Washington County, that statistic rises to 29%.

EVPs are tobacco products that are noncombustible and deliver nicotine by electronic means, also called e-cigarettes. This includes JUUL, PUFF Bar and more. Multiple factors play into this epidemic like flavors and direct marketing among other things. Tobacco companies directly advertise and market to youth.

In the United States vs. Philip Morris case, Judge Gladys Kessler said, “From the 1950s to the present, different defendants, at different times and using different methods, have intentionally marketed to young people under the age of twenty-one in order to recruit ‘replacement smokers’ to ensure the economic future of the tobacco industry.” “Defendants” refers to tobacco companies.

Another factor is the number of flavors being sold: there are over 15,000 e-cigarette flavors sold on the market. According to the 2019 YRBS, 27% of Vermont’s high school students have tried a flavored tobacco product.

So many youth are turning to these dangerous devices, and it’s easy to see why. As the Vermont National Youth Ambassador for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the youth advocate at Central Vermont New Directions Coalition, I won’t stop fighting until this epidemic is over. I hope you will take this information and join the fight, as well. On behalf of the youth in Vermont and across the globe, we deserve so much more than a lifetime of addiction. If you have questions or are interested in learning more, please contact Zoey Pickel at [email protected].

Zoey Pickel lives in Barre.

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