There's Nothing Harmless About Teen Tobacco Use

Looks like candy. Tastes like candy. Hooks like tobacco.

Electronic Cigarettes
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Get the facts about electronic cigarettes, their health effects, and the risks of using e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “vapes,” “vape pens,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)”. E-cigarette use is often referred to as “vaping” and sometimes “juuling”, which refers to one USB-lookalike brand. Some e-cigarettes look like combustible or lit cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, while others look like everyday household items such as USB computer memory sticks, writing pens, asthma inhalers, mint tins, hoodie drawstrings and more.

  • E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.1
  • E-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine.
  • Health risks from e-cigarette use include learning, memory, and mental health problems, lung illnesses, heart problems, injuries resulting from battery explosions, and accidental childhood nicotine poisonings. 
  • Young people who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future. More

  • E-cigarettes are not FDA-approved as safe and effective devices to reduce nicotine dependence and quit smoking lit cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes have the potential to be developed to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for lit cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products (e.g. cigars, cigarillos, etc.).

Talk to youth, women who are pregnant, and smokers about nicotine and e-cigarette health risks. More

What‘s the bottom line?

  • E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.
  • E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
  • While e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit some people and harm others, scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking.
  • If you’ve never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don’t start.
  • Additional research can help understand long-term health effects. More

Teen Smoking, Vaping, and Other Tobacco Use in Rhode Island

Even though Rhode Island has a low smoking rate for high school teens compared to the national average (6.1% in 2017 compared to the national average for the same year (8.8%), smoking combustible or lit cigarettes and overall tobacco product use among young people remains a concern. One in five (20.1%) teens report using e-cigarettes and vaping products, while one in every four teens (25.9%) said they used one or more different types of tobacco products. According to the CDC, teens who use e-cigarettes of any kind are four times more likely to smoke lit cigarettes, the deadliest and most cancer-causing of all tobacco products. More

Flavors hook youth to highly addictive nicotine and tobacco

For kids, teens, and young adults, candy-like, sweet, and fruity flavors, as well as mint and menthol flavors, can mask the harsh tastes and effects of tobacco product use, while the chemical nicotine quickly hooks young people to continue using tobacco products until addiction sets in—often for lifelong use as adults. More

Nicotine and tobacco use in any form (e.g. smoking, vaping, dipping, etc.) can harm developing brains of children and teens. Exposure to the chemical nicotine can harm learning, memory, the ability to weigh risk, lifelong decision-making, mood, and impulse control. It can also increase risk of addiction to other substances, including alcohol and drugs. Brain development continues until about age 26. This is when nicotine is most harmful to brain health, when nicotine addiction happens very quickly, and why most smokers (90%) start before adulthood. More

Tobacco products with highly addictive nicotine come in many forms: lit or combustible cigarettes, candy-flavored lit cigars, hookah, smokeless tobacco, chew, dip, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (e.g. e-cigarettes, vaping devices, or brand names such as Juul, Blu, etc). Packaging may resemble and even smell like candy—with designs, colors, images, and motifs that have kid-friendly and teen-friendly appeal. Many of these tobacco products did not exist 10-20 years ago, and none are harmless. Parents can learn more at More

What you should do

  • Know how to spot e-cigarette and vaping devices.Twenty percent (1-in-5) of high school teens are using them and more than double have tried them. Most incognito devices are "hiding in plain sight" at home and school. More
  • Learn more and train others about youth tobacco use prevention with "Taking Down Tobacco 101". More
  • For parents and teens:
    • - Talk to kids and teens frequently and openly about nicotine and e-cigarette health risks. More
    • - See a family doctor or counselor for age-appropriate tobacco addiction treatment or cessation support.
    • - Call the FREE Rhode Island Smoker's Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free quit coaching sessions by phone, online tools, and local resources.
    • - Text "Hope4RI" to 88709. This special promo code from Tobacco Free Rhode Island (TFRI) connects teens to This Is Quitting, a new app for vapers created by the nationally acclaimed Truth Initiative Campaign.
  • Prevent poisonings. Nicotine in liquid form is highly poisonous when touched on skin or ingested. Many e-cigarette liquids are widely available in candy-like flavors, which can entice children and pets. Keep all e-cigarette liquids locked away from children and pets. More
  • Enforce school policies. In Rhode Island, it's illegal to use or possess e-cigarettes of any kind on K-12 school properties. This ban pertains to adults as well as youth, indoors and outdoors, at all times year-round. More
  • Post updated "no smoking/no vaping" signs required by state law in workplaces and public places. Enforce and report public use violations. More
  • Include e-cigarettes and hookah in 100% tobacco-free policies wherever smoking is banned in other public places. Examples may include private and public college campuses, recreation areas, parks, beaches, HUD housing, outdoor workplaces, and others.
  • Keep e-cigarettes and all tobacco products out of the hands of youth. Adopt and enforce tobacco retail licensing policies. More
  • Work with us to prevent youth from accessing tobacco products and to promote healthy, tobacco-free living activities. More