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EDITOR'S NOTE: The name of the young lady in this article was changed to protect her identity. This is the fourth in a series of five stories on teen vaping. 

 

Anna started vaping for fun during her sophomore year at a local high school. She was 15 or 16 years old and she never expected to get addicted.

Everyone was doing it and blowing out the big clouds of vapor was cool in her mind.

Fast forward two years and what started out as something she only did in social settings every now and then is now a fully formed habit.

Like many other teens and young adults, she's found herself addicted to the nicotine found in most vape products.

"I started doing it at parties. We only wanted to blow the smoke (vapor). Now we do it to get a buzz," she said.

Anna actually stopped vaping for about six months after she battled a round of pneumonia. When she started back up she changed her delivery method from a traditional e-cigarette to a JUUL, a different type of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS).

JUULs are small vaping devices that looks something like a USB flash drive. It heats up a pod containing oils to create vapor. It is easily concealable in a closed fist.

"In just two years on the market, JUUL, a new type of e-cigarette, has become so popular among young people that it has already amassed nearly half of the e-cigarette market share," according to the Truth Initiative's website.

The prevalence of vaping in youth may take some people by surprise.

E-cigarette use grew drastically between 2011 and 2018 among middle school and high school students. In 2011, 1% of girls and 2% of boys used tobacco products compared to 19% of girls and 23% of boys in 2018. Approximately 68 percent of high school students using e-cigarette use juices that have flavor, according to the Surgeon General's website.

"Out of all my friends, I only have one that doesn't do it," Anna said. "I used to think vaping was better than smoking but now I realize it's just as bad. I think people who would never smoke a cigarette would vape  When I say everybody does it, literally everybody does it."

Anna says vaping is prevalent in kids as young as the sixth grade.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Norman Sharpless released a statement on e-cigarettes in July after a judge issued a decision requiring makers and importers of e-cigs and other ENDS to submit applications for their currently marketed products to the FDA within 10 months.

"This court decision comes at a time when I, like many others, are tremendously concerned about the rising use of e-cigarettes among our nation's youth and especially the potential for them to become traditional cigarette smokers. We cannot allow the next generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine because of e-cigarettes," Sharpless said.

" The FDA stands ready to accelerate the review of e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products. And we remain committed to tackling the epidemic of youth vaping using all available regulatory tools at our disposal. We will continue to take vigorous enforcement actions aimed at ensuring e-cigarettes and other tobacco products aren't being marketed to, or sold to, kids," Sharpless said.

Small vaping devices like the JUUL are so easy to conceal that kids are doing it at school, on the bus or at school sporting events.

Anna, an A/B student who played sports and was involved in many extracurricular activities, said she regularly vaped on the bus on the way to events and even at school.

"You can't hear it. You can't see it. You just hit it and hold it in and hope nobody asks you a question so you don't have to talk," she said.

Getting her hands on the products wasn't difficult.

"I could just walk into the store and buy it, even before I was 18," Anna said.

Anna is discovering how deeply the claws of addiction can dig in. She's tried to quit vaping multiple times and, at least so far, always ends up going back to it.

"All of my friends want to quit but not a single one has been successful. If I could give younger kids any advice it would be not to do it. I know it's not good and it's probably going to kill me if I don't quit. When I first started out every time I hit it I would get a buzz. Now it's just routine," she said. "If I could go back in time I would've never done it."

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