E-cigarettes are one of the biggest threats to Missouri youth

E-cigarettes, or “vapes,” are one of the latest evolutions in tobacco products. They’re also one of the biggest threats to our kids’ health. While traditional cigarette smoking rates have dropped, use of electronic smoking devices has skyrocketed among young people—exposing them to the dangers of nicotine, addiction, and a variety of new health risks.

In Missouri, 49 percent of high schoolers have tried e-cigarettes, and 20 percent consider themselves current users, with disposable devices the most commonly used.

Kids still vape for the flavors

Sweet and trendy flavors like root beer float, cotton candy, and banana split are a big part of why e-cigarettes are so popular. In a recent study, many young e-cigarette users said they used e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like,” and they wouldn't use an unflavored product.

Learn what you can do to protect the next generation of Missouri kids from the devastating effects of e-cigarette use.

What to look for

E-cigarettes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Some are even designed to hide in plain sight.

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  • Addictive synthetic nicotine product packaging that uses words like “pure,” “clean,” or “tobacco-free.”
  • Disposable e-cigarettes that are brightly designed and look like slim highlighters, or high-tech cigarettes.
  • You could mistake some e-cigarettes for USB flash drives, credit cards, small cell phones, or guitar picks.
  • Colorful, pre-filled e-juice cartridges, or flavor pods, with plastic caps.
  • Sweet scents, like bubble gum, or chocolate cake, that don't have a clear source.
  • Strange batteries, charging equipment, coils, and spare parts you don't recognize.
  • Unexplained online purchases, or small, unexpected packages in the mail.
  • Slim pieces of colorful plastic in your trash? Those could be disposable vapes.
  • Flavored e-juice containers include small plastic, or glass, vials and eye-dropper bottles.
  • Some users keep an e-cigarette kit, or accessory case for their pen, liquid, and charger.

Some of the health risks

E-cigarettes are so new, doctors and scientists are still studying the risks—including a 2019 outbreak of vape-related lung injuries and deaths. That means a lot of kids are using tobacco products that aren’t fully understood. Here are some things we do know:

  • “Tobacco-free” synthetic nicotine products are still very addictive and can often contain more nicotine than plant-based tobacco products.
  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a potent chemical compound that makes cigarettes, chew, and other tobacco products highly addictive.
  • The industry's most popular e-cigarette pod contains as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes.
  • E-liquids can contain heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead.
  • Diacetyl, a flavoring found in many e-liquids, has been linked to lung disease.
  • Nicotine can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
  • Aerosols contain super fine particles that can irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs.
  • Teens who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to become cigarette smokers.
  • No matter how it is delivered, nicotine is addictive.
  • E-cigarette devices have been known to explode, causing severe injuries.
  • Ingesting the nicotine in e-liquids can cause vomiting, confusion, cardiac arrhythmia, coma, and death.

Share what you've learned

Research shows that kids are more likely to avoid risky behaviors when they have an open, trusting relationship with parents and other caregivers, so talk to your kids about e-cigarettes and share what you know with parents, teachers, and others.

You can tell your kids:

You can quit, and you don't have to do it alone. If they've already started using e-cigarettes, encourage them to text VAPEFREEMO to 873373 for free help to quit. You can also start the Live Vape Free online course to receive tools to help you support them through their quit journey.

If you think everybody’s vaping, you’re wrong. E-cigarette use is on the rise, but kids often over-estimate just how popular tobacco use is among their peers. Vape shops, ads, and “cloud chasing” videos (usually posted by e-cig users doing vapor cloud tricks), can encourage kids to believe every middle and high schooler is vaping, but the fact is that four out of five Missouri teens aren’t using e-cigarettes. Remind your child that most Missouri teens choose to live tobacco free.

Sweet flavors don’t make e-cigarettes safe. Candy and fruit flavors can give the impression that disposable vapes and e-juices are a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes. But e-cigarette users are still at risk for some serious health effects, including addiction, exposure to harmful chemicals and aerosol particulates, and damage to the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.

Nobody knows all the damage e-cigarettes can do. These new electronic tobacco products are so new, science hasn’t had enough time to study all of the health risks, or understand what long-term use can do to your body. Until they do, vapers are taking a big gamble with an addictive, potentially deadly product.

E-liquid isn’t just “flavored water.” It’s dangerous. It’s natural to believe a product that’s sold in stores must be safe, but e-liquids that contain nicotine are potentially poisonous. In children, nicotine poisoning can occur with exposure to as little as 1 ml (about 20 drops) of 36 mg/mL e-liquid. From 2014 to 2015, calls to the Missouri Poison Center, because of liquid nicotine poisoning, doubled. Even though many vaping shops only sell the e-liquid solution in containers with child resistant caps, there are no national standards when it comes to packaging. Additionally, e-liquid (liquid nicotine) production and marketing aren’t currently regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers don’t have to list their ingredients, or ensure products are tested and accurately labeled.

E-cigarettes can be a stepping stone to addiction. Teens who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to become cigarette smokers, and the nicotine in e-cigarettes interferes with healthy brain development—helping to form pathways of addiction in the brain that could lead to the use of other drugs.

Make sure others know


Support required tobacco retailer licensing

Missouri does not require retailers to have a license to sell tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices and accessories, and that makes it tougher to prevent illegal sales and underage tobacco use. Find out how you can support comprehensive tobacco policies for a healthier state and take action in your own community.

Take the Next Step

Knowledge is power. Find out how the tobacco industry creates, packages, and markets its dangerous products to hook young people in your community.