Teens and parents agree: Electronic cigarettes need restrictions

November 30, 2015

As electronic cigarette use skyrockets among youth, even teens agree with parents that what’s known as “vaping” needs stricter rules.

More than three fourths of both teens and adults say e-cigarettes should be restricted in public spaces, come with health warnings and be taxed like conventional cigarettes, according to a recent C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan.

All U.S. states except for Pennsylvania and Michigan restrict sales to minors — and an overwhelming majority of adults and teens agree with these laws, the poll found. More than 80 percent of parents and teens also think that allowing teens to use e-cigarettes will encourage them to use other tobacco products.

“Just as we are seeing declines in smoking of conventional cigarettes, there has been rapid growth in use of electronic cigarettes among youth. Our poll indicates that both parents and teens agree that e-cigarettes pose several concerns,” says Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit of U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“We found overwhelming public support of state efforts to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors."

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that electronic cigarette use among middle and high school students had tripled from 2013 to 2014. E-cigarette use had also surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes.

In a 2010 Mott poll, only 37 percent of adult respondents had ever heard of e-cigarettes, compared to 86 percent in 2013. E-cigarettes have raised health concerns because they contain nicotine, an addictive substance that can lead teens to experiment with other tobacco products.

This is the first Mott poll to include the voices of teens, with a nationally represented group of parents of teens and teens themselves 13-18 years old.

“Some people may be surprised that teenagers’ views are remarkably consistent with what parents think about e-cigarettes,” says Davis, who also is a professor of public health at U-M's School of Public Health. “The strong level of agreement between parents and teens suggests that both groups are concerned about the health hazards of e-cigarettes.”

Other report highlights:

• 92 percent of parents and 91 percent of teens think e-cigarettes should have health warnings like traditional cigarettes.    

• 42 percent of teens say they know other teens that have used e-cigarettes.

• More than half of parents and teens think it is easy for people under 18 to buy e-cigarettes.

• Both parents (84 percent) and teens (81 percent) think allowing minors to use e-cigarettes will encourage the use of other tobacco products.

• 64 percent of parents and 71 percent of teens support banning candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes.

• 14 percent of parents report having tried or are currently using e-cigarettes, compared to 9 percent of teens.

This article was written by Beata Mostafavi, UMHS Department of Communication. This article was published by the University Record on Novermber 20, 2015.