no vaping

While use of cigarettes and other harsh tobacco products continues to fall, Oklahoma’s flavorful “fat clouds” sweep down the plains, tricking many into following the smell of cotton candy right into their local smoke shop.

Using 2017 data from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of e-cigarette users, Quotewizard Insurance News (QIN) reported that Oklahoma is the number 1 state in the U.S. for number of e-cigarette users, or vapers.

Oklahoma is not alone in vape’s rise. The Surgeon General reported a 900 percent increase in high school students’ use between 2011 and 2015. A few years later, about 3,600,000 middle and high school students across the nation reported e-cigarette use in 2018.

Many believe the high numbers of youth who vape could be due to the marketing of fruity flavors, which had the FDA crack down with laws restricting the sale of popular flavors for teens in JUULs, the best-selling e-cigarettes in the U.S., and only allow mint, tobacco and menthol flavors to be sold in stores.

With many of those students now aging out of school and entering the adult world, insurance providers may have their hands forced to classify vaping once and for all as e-cigarette use numbers continue to climb. 

In the recent past, vaping has been a gray area for providers, despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifying it as a tobacco product.

While insurance providers are able to charge up to 50 percent more for those who report tobacco use, there is no such policy explicitly for vaping, putting the burden of the classification on those who purchase insurance from providers.

This has left many people deciding whether or not to admit to tobacco use for their vaping habits and paying higher premiums — or leaving those details out and risk committing insurance fraud if the company in fact classifies vaping as tobacco use.

The relative new adoption of vaping means that it has been difficult to study associated health risks compared to traditional tobacco products. Still, the CDC has been monitoring the use of e-cigarettes throughout the nation, breaking it down by state.

QIN reported a crude prevalence of 7.1 percent in Oklahoma, a full percentage above the next highest state, Kentucky, with Indiana not far behind at 6.0 percent. These statistics are recorded by the CDC, and therefore only include those over the age of 18.

While it is difficult to determine vaping’s exclusive health risks, other tobacco products, and the use of nicotine, have years of statistical risks, including addiction, stunted brain development and a variety of cancers.

Nationally, 18,000 teens will become daily smokers each year. In addition, 30.7 percent of teens who smoked e-cigarettes started smoking regular cigarettes within six months, according to Integris Health.