Gone are the days of “this is your brain on drugs.” A new public health campaign has its sights set on a more modern concern: vaping.
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that it’s expanding its anti-tobacco campaign, called “The Real Cost,” to focus on vaping, a trend that’s growing in popularity among U.S. youth. Many teens refer to using e-cigarettes colloquially as “Juuling,” after the popular vape pen brand. Findings from the FDA’s 2017 youth tobacco use survey showed that e-cigarettes are by far the most-used tobacco product among teens and middle-schoolers, with 2.1 million students saying they had vaped at least once in the last 30 days. And while tobacco use over all continues to drop, e-cigarette use has been on the rise since 2011.
Now, the FDA is rolling out online ads and social media posts, as well as posters tacked up in school bathrooms across the country, to warn teens about the potential risks associated with vaping, such as nicotine addiction and the increased risk of moving to combustible cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes have become an almost ubiquitous—and dangerous—trend among youth that we believe has reached epidemic proportions,” Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, said in a press release. “As a parent, a survivor of cancer, and someone entrusted with responsibilities to protect our nation’s kids from certain dangers—I won’t allow this rising youth use to continue on my watch.”
Research on the health risks of e-cigarettes is limited, because it’s still such a recent technology. What we do understand so far is that e-cigarettes are most likely a less dangerous option than combustible cigarettes, and are often touted as a harm reduction technique for people who are already addicted to nicotine. But tasty flavors and trendy gadget-like appearance of vape pens have made it popular among youth who didn’t already smoke.
Read more: Everything We Know About E-Cigarettes so Far
Along with the public health campaign, the FDA has been cracking down on e-cigarette manufacturers and sellers, including launching undercover sting operations targeting mostly Juul retailers who often sell to teens. The FDA has given a 60 day deadline to five major vape manufacturers—Juul, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic—to submit their plans on addressing youth access to their products.
“Even as we consider the potential benefits of innovative tobacco products and the role that some such products may play in reducing harm to current adult smokers, the FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products,” Gottlieb said.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .