As In-Person Learning Resumes, Teens May Face Pressure to Vape

Sep 28, 2021 at 12:57 pm by pj



This fall, kids in Orlando and throughout Florida will return to in-person learning, some for the first time in more than a year. While the schools are working hard on policies and procedures to keep kids safe from COVID-19, we can’t forget about another threat to our teens’ health – vaping and tobacco use.

Vaping was a hot topic in 2019 before COVID-19 took over our lives, but just because it isn’t dominating the headlines anymore doesn’t mean that it has gone away. While it seems like a lifetime ago, it was only in September 2019 when we saw a sharp rise in EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury) cases. As of February 2020, more than 2,800 people were hospitalized with EVALI and 68 people died from it. It was a tragedy, but one that could have been prevented with stronger regulation and more education about the dangers of these tobacco products.

Two years later, e-cigarettes are still an epidemic. Our most recent data from the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey states that 21 percent of high school students in Florida use e-cigarettes. With most teens returning to in-person learning soon, this number could rise. More students may experience social pressure to vape, while others may begin to vape in response to stress, including stress related to ongoing global pandemic.

Parents locally are feeling concerned. In a conversation with a local mom with a son in high school (who wishes to remain anonymous), the concern about social pressures to vape are growing.

“I wish schools had a better program to educate the kids on the dangers of vaping,” she said. “There is so much we don’t know and understand as parents about vaping and pods. I wonder and get scared if they are going to vape that there are different levels of nicotine pods that could be more dangerous and more addictive. I don’t know the answers because we never did it.”

Finding the balance of communicating with your teen, managing stress and social pressures can be a challenge for local parents. 

“We try to have an open conversation in our house about stress management and healthy habits to help with coping like a regular exercise routine.  My daughter listens to podcasts like Emma Chamberlain who talks about anxiety and stress management.  My son talks with his coach often about how stress can negatively play a role in his performance and health. He seems to value his athletic ability enough to not want to jeopardize it with vaping,” said the local mom. “Our other son started vaping and we found out because of a social media picture.  We were devastated because we thought we were doing a good job as parents.  We thought we convinced him to quit by pleading, threatening, and telling stories but unfortunately, we found a Juul pod several months later.  He said, ‘everyone is doing it, it’s not a big deal, it helps with stress, I only do it once in a while.’” 


Click here to see video explaining the latest vaping initiative.


It is critical to address the e-cigarette epidemic, and the American Lung Association offers several resources for both parents and schools.

For parents, the Lung Association offers the “Get Your Head Out of the Cloud” public awareness campaign with the Ad Council, which equips parents with the facts about e-cigarettes and supports conversations before kids start to vape. The campaign includes free educational resources and guides, conversation starters and facts about vaping at

We asked our local mom about how freely she has been able to talk with her teen about vaping.

“We talk openly to our high school teenagers about vaping. We share stories we’ve heard of kids ending up in the hospital in respiratory distress and athletes who can no longer compete,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think they know so many friends that do it that they feel those stores are so extreme, like they wouldn’t happen to them or anyone they know.”

For schools, the Lung Association launched the Vape-Free Schools Initiative last year and continues to expand and improve the program. The Vape-Free Schools Initiative helps school administrators and educators address the surge of youth vaping through guidance in implementing a comprehensive tobacco use policy, an alternative to suspension program for students found non-compliant with existing tobacco use policies (INDEPTH), as well as offering a voluntary youth-centered tobacco cessation program, including vaping cessation assistance, for youth wanting to quit tobacco use for good (Not On Tobacco).

To help implement this program in schools that need it the most, the Lung Association just announced the Vape-Free Schools Scholarship Fund, a new effort to fund implementation of the Vape-Free Schools Initiative so that more kids can access cessation, support and education. The scholarship drive seeks to raise funds to give schools across the country access to the program. With a cost of $400 per training seat, the goal is to raise $400,000 to serve 1,000 schools in need by the end of 2021. Through this scholarship drive, the Lung Association will enable faculty and students in Florida to access the Lung Association’s proven vaping intervention and cessation programs.

While parents and school administrators can tackle the e-cigarette epidemic on a local level, there needs to be more done on a national level to regulate these dangerous and addictive products. The Lung Association has a targeted advocacy plan to advance proven e-cigarette policies at local, state and federal levels. In addition, we have invested $2 million in research to understand the effects of vaping on developing lungs. The organization is also partnering with Northwestern Medicine in a $25 million National Institutes of Health-funded grant to study the longitudinal lung health of millennials, including the long-term impact of vaping.

To learn more or make a donation, visit To get more information about the Vape-Free Schools Initiative or submit your school for scholarship consideration, visit or contact


Janelle Hom, is Executive Director, American Lung Association in Florida.

Sections: Grand Rounds