How Many Teens Vape Nicotine?

A new study based on data from an NIH survey shows most teen vapers don't use nicotine

Teens Vaping

Most kids who vape are not using nicotine. It’s not news to everyone, but the FDA, CDC and organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids ought to take notice. And then maybe shut up about e-cigarettes being a plot to entice children into a lifetime of addiction.

According to a study based on data from a respected national health survey, only about 20 percent of 10th and 12th grade kids who vaped used nicotine, and just 13 percent of the 8th graders. The authors say that the results “suggest that the recent rise in adolescent vaporiser use does not necessarily indicate a nicotine epidemic.”

The study is using data from the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey (MTF), an annual survey of drug use by teens conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The authors of this study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, are all investigators on the MTF survey.

The FDA has presented the deeming regulations largely as a response to the "epidemic" of teenage nicotine use.

The authors — Richard Miech, PhD., Megan E Patrick, PhD., Patrick M O’Malley, PhD., and Lloyd D Johnston, PhD. — are all from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, which conducts the annual survey.

“The majority of US youth who use vaporisers and e-cigarettes do not vape nicotine,” they write. “This finding challenges many common assumptions and practices, and points to the need for vaporiser-specific research to assess and ultimately regulate the public health threat of vaporisers. Taking into account this finding now, while the field is young, will help ensure that future vaporiser science and regulations are built on a solid footing.”

The FDA has presented the deeming regulations largely as a response to the “epidemic” of teenage nicotine use. While the data presented isn’t new, it can only be helpful to vaping to see it presented by respected researchers in a tobacco control journal.

Reaction from the AVA


“These results should cause a reframing of the debate around vapor products,” said American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley in a press release. “For years, activists and government officials have loudly proclaimed that vaping was fueling a ‘epidemic’ of nicotine addiction among youth. These were faulty assumptions based upon no evidence.”

“The FDA claims that its regulation is needed to protect youth, but the agency’s rule does nothing to stop teens from purchasing products that do not contain nicotine,” Conley added. “Instead of protecting youth, the FDA’s actions will cost tens of thousands of jobs and take away from adults the freedom to use less harmful alternatives to smoking. And for what? To regulate the vapor products used by 20 percent of youth users?”

Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.