Skip to content

E-cigarettes Remain a Pervasive Problem for Youth

Tobacco use among youth in the US is down, but e-cigarettes still pose the greatest challenge to reducing nicotine consumption among middle and high schoolers. These are the findings of the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey, released this month by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These findings reinforce the importance of LegitScript's monitoring expertise to help keep the internet clean of the kinds of merchants that can pose an illegal public health risk.

According to the survey, 3.6 million middle and high school students said in 2017 that they were current tobacco product users, meaning that they had used a tobacco product in the past 30 days. That translates to about one in five high school students, and about one in 18 middle school students. About half of these youth were using two or more products.

The good news is that these numbers represent a decline from 2011's survey, which reported 4.5 million current tobacco product users in this age category. The challenge for combating tobacco use in youth is with e-cigarettes, which since 2014 have been the most commonly used tobacco product in this demographic - accounting for 2.1 million users.

"These figures are particularly concerning because youth exposure to nicotine - whether it comes from a cigarette or an e-cigarette - affects the developing brain and may rewire it to be more susceptible to nicotine addiction in the future," wrote FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in an FDA statement about the survey. "And while there was no change in e-cigarette use from 2016 to 2017 among high school-aged teens, it's too soon to tell whether this represents a leveling off, following a steep decline from 2015 to 2016."

To help combat youth consumption of e-cigarettes, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued warning letters to companies that have misleadingly labeled or marketed nicotine-containing e-liquids to look similar to kid-friendly products such as juice boxes, candies, and cookies. See the examples below from

These products were cited for misbranding violations. According to the FDA, this kind of labeling causes a product "to imitate a food or beverage, particularly one that is marketed toward, and/or appealing to, children."

E-commerce plays an important role in minors' access to tobacco products. According to a 2015 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, minors were successful in completing online purchases of e-cigarette products more than 90% of the time because of an absence of age-verification measures. This was before the FDA began regulating tobacco products in 2016, but the potential danger of online access remains - now with regulatory scrutiny.

Many payment providers restrict the sale of regulated products, including tobacco, e-cigarettes, and e-liquids. But as technology and marketing strategies constantly change, it may be difficult to easily identify these "smokes" products. LegitScript tracks both e-commerce and regulatory trends to stay abreast of the newest problematic products and merchants. Not only does this serve the needs of our partners by keeping their platforms and portfolios clean, but it does an important public service by helping to restrict youth access to tobacco products.

LegitScript combines technology with human expertise to proactively monitor portfolios for problematic merchants. We alert payment facilitators if their merchants are offering regulated or illegal products such as tobacco and e-liquids. Additionally, we monitor more than 500,000 merchants with a comprehensive database of known bad actors. Contact us to learn more about our merchant monitoring offerings.


David Khalaf is a writing, communications, and marketing professional with specialties in media, investigations, content strategy, and writing instruction. His 20 years of writing, media, and communications work have included two top-tier universities (USC and UCLA), print and digital magazines, consulting firms, and technology companies.

His current work involves content strategy and development at LegitScript, a company that helps the world's leading search engines, payment service providers, and internet platforms and marketplaces do business with legitimate, legally operating entities in more than 80 countries and 15 languages around the world. LegitScript specializes in risk and compliance for highly regulated industries including CBD/cannabis, online gambling, cryptocurrencies, drugs, financial trading, online adult, scams and fraud, and more.

Recent Blog Articles

AI and ROI in trust and safety.

Navigating Marketplace Risk: AI and the ROI of Trust and Safety

Every year, professionals from around the world come together at the Marketplace Risk Management Conference to discuss issues of risk on online platforms and other technology. Explore the most critical takeaways from 150+ industry-leading speakers spanning 70+ sessions. Then contact us to see how Le...
Pride Month Addiction Treatment Certification application fee waiver.

This Is How LegitScript Is Celebrating Pride Month

LegitScript is celebrating Pride Month by waiving application fees for a limited number of new applicants who provide specialty care for the LGBTQ+ community - along with addiction treatment services. Let's unfurl Pride Month's origins, and discuss why the LGBTQ+ community needs support for addictio...
Levels of risk.

What You Need to Know About the Different Levels of Merchant Risk

Many risk mitigation approaches focus on high-risk merchants, but what about medium-risk merchants? Being aware of the various levels of risk and which category your merchant falls into is a critical step in quantifying risk. Let's delve into what low-, medium-, and high-risk merchants are and the v...
Northern Colorado Hemp Exposition (NOCO)

Navigating Compliance: LegitScript’s Insights from NOCO

Join LegitScript on a journey to the 10th annual Northern Colorado Hemp Exposition (NOCO), where we immersed ourselves in the heart of the CBD industry. LegitScript shared critical compliance knowledge, exchanged insights with industry peers, and absorbed vital regulatory updates from the FDA and US...