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Majority of Americans Support FDA Actions to Limit Access to E-Cigarettes

Press Release

Adults surveyed think vaping products are attracting new users, particularly teenagers, who would not otherwise smoke regular cigarettes.

CHICAGO, Mar. 13, 2019 - A majority of adults support stronger regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the marketing and sales of e-cigarettes and vaping products especially to youth, according to a new AmeriSpeak® Spotlight on Health survey from NORC at the University of Chicago.

Most adults said they would support four potential policy actions, including regulating e-cigarette advertising targeting teens (78 percent), restricting the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes (73 percent), raising the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes and other tobacco products (69 percent), and restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes (55 percent).

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has worked to raise awareness about the issue of teen vaping and has increased enforcement of e-cigarette sales to minors. Gottlieb has also previewed a number of policy changes he hoped to pursue, including restricting sales of flavored e-cigarettes. In early March, Gottlieb announced his resignation, but he indicated that the Trump Administration will continue efforts to increase regulation of e-cigarettes.

“Americans are particularly concerned about teens becoming newly addicted to e-cigarettes, and they support a range of actions the federal government could take to make vaping products less available, less addictive, and less appealing,” said Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at NORC at the University of Chicago. “Commissioner Gottlieb has taken tangible steps to regulate the vaping industry. Whether or not these efforts continue, however, rests on the priorities of the agency’s next commissioner.”

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The federal government has found that rates of e-cigarette use, also known as vaping, among teens has grown rapidly. In 2018, 37 percent of 12th graders reported that they vaped at least once during the past year, compared to 28 percent in 2017.

People believe e-cigarettes are causing more teenagers to start smoking.

While about half (52 percent) of adults agreed that adults are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) believed that teens are using e-cigarettes to initiate smoking. Most survey respondents also believed that both teens and adults are substituting e-cigarettes for regular cigarettes.

data visualization

When asked to choose, 77 percent of survey respondents said access to e-cigarettes should be limited because people are becoming newly addicted to them, compared to 22 percent who said access to e-cigarettes should be broad since they are safer than regular cigarettes.

“While e-cigarettes are safer than combustible tobacco products, the public is worried that e-cigarettes are creating a whole new generation of tobacco users who would not otherwise have started,” said Sherry Emery, senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago. “While there are dramatic public health benefits to eliminating cigarette smoking, these gains may come at the cost of addicting a new generation to nicotine and other harmful tobacco products.”

The public does not realize that e-cigarettes contain more nicotine than regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes generally contain more nicotine than regular cigarettes. However, only 21 percent of adults surveyed correctly identified that e-cigarettes contain more nicotine. Twenty-six percent of adults incorrectly believed that e-cigarettes had the same amount of nicotine as regular cigarettes, and 13 percent of adults believed e-cigarettes had less nicotine. Forty percent of respondents said they were not sure about the nicotine levels. Higher levels of nicotine have been shown to increase the addictive effect of e-cigarettes and produce negative health impacts like heart attack and stroke.

“Americans are particularly concerned about teens becoming newly addicted to e-cigarettes.”

Caroline Pearson

Senior Vice President

“Americans are particularly concerned about teens becoming newly addicted to e-cigarettes.”


The self-funded poll was conducted between February 14 and 18, 2019, during a monthly Omnibus survey. It included 1,004 interviews with a nationally representative sample (margin of error +/- 4.12 percent) of adult Americans age 18+ using the AmeriSpeak® Panel. AmeriSpeak is NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. A comprehensive listing of all study questions, tabulations of top-level results for each question.

About the AmeriSpeak Spotlight on Health

NORC at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak® Spotlight on Health is a series of quick-hitting national surveys on issues vital to health and well-being, conducted using AmeriSpeak’s probability-based panel.

About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

Contact: For more information, please contact Eric Young at NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).


Teen vaping rates reported are from the National Institute on Drug Abuse 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey conducted with federal funding by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

More NORC Research on E-Cigarettes

NORC’s Social Data Collaboratory, led by senior fellow Sherry Emery, has been studying public health tobacco control efforts for more than two decades, primarily focusing on health communications research and specializing in analyzing the relationships between tobacco-related media, policy, and health behavior. Our noteworthy project, Tobacco Control in a Rapidly Changing Media Environment (NCI U01CA154254, 2011-2017)—which explored the relationships between tobacco-related information and marketing exposure (on both traditional and new media platforms, including social media), with individual and population-level tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes, and behavior—represented the first large-scale, national survey of new media consumption in the context of tobacco control. The project was incredibly timely and documented the introduction and rise of emerging tobacco product-related marketing (e.g., ENDS, JUUL, JUUL-compatible, little cigars and cigarillos, menthol and flavored products) in U.S. markets. The team published heavily on our findings, which can be found here, and which include several articles on novel social media analytical studies addressing ENDS and vaping product marketing and behavior. Additional peer-reviewed work regarding what the public knows or believes about nicotine can be found here, and here.

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