8 of the Top Strategies Big Tobacco Used to Target Kids with E-Cigarettes

The 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data paint a grim picture of youth vaping in the U.S. – kids continue to be lured by flavors and are becoming regular users.

The NYTS data show more than two and a half million middle and high school students using e-cigarettes in 2022.1 The frequency of use by teens is especially alarming with 46% of high school students who vape doing so regularly (20 or more of the past 30 days), and more than 1 in 4 (30.1%) are vaping daily.2 This regular use underscores how addicted youth have become to e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco products among youth in the United States. The e-cigarette companies have used a number of strategies, many previously used by the tobacco industry, to get kids to try their products:

1. Groundhog day!

E-cigarette companies used  the same playbook to hook youth on e-cigarettes that they used to hook kids on cigarettes.*


2. Flavors

Flavored e-cigarette use among kids remains extremely high. Almost 85% of middle and high school students who vape reported using flavored e-cigarettes, with the top four flavors being fruit, candy/dessert/other sweets, mint and menthol. Kids continue to follow the available e-cigarette flavors; with the top one being fruit at 69% and close to 27% of youth e-cigarette users report using menthol e-cigarettes.3

3. All the ads!

Over 75% of students have reported seeing e-cigarette ads on TV, and a variety of other mediums especially the internet…*4

4. Corporate Sponsorships

Like the tobacco companies before them, e-cigarette companies have used corporate sponsorships, like auto racing, to improve their image.*

5. Eat your vegetables

E-cigarette companies have falsely advertised that their products are healthy, encouraging people to try their product, which is anything but healthy.

6. Money Money Money

The industry used discounts and coupons to get kids to try e-cigarettes, but in true 21st century fashion, they reached out directly through social media to get to kids.*


7. Who is that?

Online vendors and sales easily allowed youth to pose as adults to access e-cigarettes.

8. It’s hidden in plain sight…

E-cigarettes that look like flash drives (Juul and look-a-like products) have been difficult for teachers and parents to notice. This has allowed use in school and even in class and has kept youth e-cigarette use at alarming levels.

For more information on youth and e-cigarettes, check out the Surgeon General’s website on e-cigarette use among youth.

*Images courtesy of TrinketsAndTrash.org.

  1. Park-Lee E, Ren C, Cooper M, Cornelius M, Jamal A, Cullen KA. Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1429–1435.

  2. Cooper M, Park-Lee E, Ren C, Cornelius M, Jamal A, Cullen KA. Notes from the Field: E-cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1283–1285. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7140a3.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Gentzke AS, Wang TW, Cornelius M, Park-Lee E, Ren C, Sawdey MD, Cullen KA, Loretan C, Jamal A, Homa DM. Tobacco Product Use and Associated Factors Among Middle and High School Students - National Youth Tobacco Survey, United States, 2021. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2022 Mar 11;71(5):1-29.

Page last updated: September 26, 2023