What Vaping Statistics Tell Us About The New Epidemic

By Kelly Burch 10/03/19

The statistics highlight just how popular the trend is among adolescents and young adults. 

Image: 
hand holding a vaping device

Vaping has recently become headline news, as the national scrambles to figure out the cause of vaping-related illnesses that have killed 18 people as of Thursday (Oct. 3). Looking at the numbers around vaping can help people understand the issue. Here are some things to consider:

Vaping is relatively rare among adults

Although everyone seems to have an opinion on vaping, not too many adults are actually using e-cigarettes. According to the Truth Initiative, 4.2% of adults ages 25 to 44 were using e-cigarettes in 2016. That was an increase from 2013, when just 2.4% of adults were using them, but is still a relatively low rate.

Most adults who use e-cigarettes are doing so to replace traditional tobacco products. Nearly 59% of adult users said they smoked both traditional and electronic cigarettes in 2015. An additional 30% of adult users were previous smokers, and just 11.4% of adult e-cigarette users had never smoked cigarettes.

Vaping is very popular among teens, young adults

Unfortunately, vaping has become super popular among teens and young adults, many of whom have never used traditional cigarettes. Although it’s illegal for people younger than 18 (or in some states, 21) to purchase or use vape products, 40% of 12th-graders surveyed in 2019 reported that they’ve used nicotine vapes, according to U.S. News and World Report.

More than a quarter reported using nicotine vapes within the past 30 days. That’s a massive rise from 2017, when just 13% of 12th-graders had used vapes within the past month. Now, 12% of high school seniors say they use nicotine vapes every day.

Unlike adult users, who seem to use e-cigarettes to replace traditional nicotine products, young people are using e-cigs as their first exposure to nicotine. Experts are concerned that teens who otherwise would not get hooked on nicotine are becoming dependent on it because of their vape use. For example, in 2018, 7.6% of high school seniors had smoked a cigarette within the past month, but 26.7% had used a vape, according to the Monitoring the Future survey.

In adults, it’s associated with tobacco use

Data shows that states with higher rates of tobacco use also have higher rates of e-cigarette use. For example, Kentucky had some of the highest smoking rates, with 24.6% of adults using traditional cigarettes in 2017 and 6.1% using vapes. In California, where just 11.3% of adults smoke tobacco, just 3% used vapes.

The adult use trends are uneven. In fact, half of the states saw adult vaping rates decrease from between 2016 and 2017, while half saw an increase in adult use. Despite this, teen and young adult vaping rates continue to rise across the board.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.