Preventing Tobacco Use in Young People Saves Lives

The recent removal of Juul Labs’ products from the American market was greeted with cheers by many parents whose teenagers use this harmful brand of flavored electronic nicotine delivery device and nicotine pods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth. Almost 85 percent of the more than 2 million United States middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes used flavored e-cigarettes in 2021. Juul is only one of many e-cigarette brands.

The 2019 Alabama Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 19.4 percent of Alabama high school students used electronic vapor products on at least 1 day within the 30 days before the survey. These include e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, vape pipes, vaping pens, e-hookahs, and hookah pens. In addition, 7.1 percent of Alabama high school students currently smoke cigarettes.

Tobacco products in any form are unsafe because they contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain and may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Tobacco kills in excess of 8,600 smokers and costs the state more than $1.9 billion in direct medical expenses to treat smoking-related diseases each year. In the U.S., cigarette smoking is declining; however, the use of other tobacco products has remained unchanged or has increased in recent years.

The Alabama Department of Public Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program works to help tobacco users quit, prevent youth and young adults from starting tobacco use, and protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Efforts include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tobacco Inspection Program which is now in its eleventh year of a contract with the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to conduct inspections at all Alabama retailers which sell tobacco in an effort to keep minors from purchasing tobacco and to ensure tobacco permit holders comply with the requirements of the Tobacco Control Act.

We also have a great resource for those who need help quitting tobacco – the Alabama Tobacco Quitline. You can call toll-free at 1-800-QUIT-NOW ( 1-800-784-8669), text QUIT to 205-900-2550, or go online at The Quitline helps callers develop an individualized quit plan, offers telephone, texting, or online coaching, and provides up to 8 weeks of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches if the user is medically eligible and enrolled in the coaching program. All Quitline services are free to Alabama residents.

If the caller is eligible for NRT, the patches are mailed directly to the caller’s home. Medicaid callers are referred to Medicaid for their cessation medications. Quitline services are available every day from 6 a.m. to midnight, with calls placed after hours or on holidays returned the next business day. The Quitline schedules telephone coaching sessions at the caller’s convenience.

Thousands of Alabamians have already contacted the Quitline and are now living tobacco free. There is no downside to quitting tobacco in any form, and the benefits are priceless.

Scott Harris, M.D., M.P.H.
State Health Officer