A Full Breakdown of All Vaping Industry Academic Scholarships to High Schoolers

Led by Adam Goldstein, MD, UNC Family Medicine researchers published details on how electronic cigarette companies offer academic scholarships to high school-age teenagers and young adults, showing a disconnect between the industry’s desire to increase vaping among young people and the desire of health advocates to decrease such usage.

A Full Breakdown of All Vaping Industry Academic Scholarships to High Schoolers click to enlarge Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH

January 8, 2020 

UNC School of Medicine researchers conducted a systematic online review and found 21 vaping-related companies, including, websites, that promoted 40 scholarships to high school and college students in 2018 across the United States.

“The wide-spread promotion of scholarships from vaping-related companies to young people is concerning for several reasons, including nicotine addiction, potential adverse health impacts, and the epidemic rise in use among youth for the past few years,” said Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine. “We know that nicotine in all forms is not good for the developing brains of young people”.

Goldstein, director of the UNC Tobacco Intervention Programs, is senior author of a research letter published in the journal Tobacco Control, which his team decided to pursue after hearing about isolated reports of e-cigarette company scholarships. Their systematic online search discovered 21 vaping-related entities offering scholarships ranging from $300 to $5,000. Some entities offered more than one type of scholarship. Most required an essay submission. 

The researchers pointed out that most scholarship offers included prompts related to e-cigarettes or solicited information about the benefits of vaping.

Some scholarship offers included asking young e-cigarette users to write essays based on questions, such as, “What are the different types of e-cigarettes and what would you recommend?” and “Why do you think vaping is a safer alternative (to smoking cigarettes)?” 

Most major e-cigarette companies do not offer such scholarships, but Goldstein said that scholarships to youth by other manufacturers or distributors are not appropriate.  The authors suggest that such scholarships are also an indirect way of utilizing college or university web sites to promote e-cigarette devises to young people.

“As the FDA has increased smoking and vaping age to 21, perhaps colleges will rethink listing any vaping-related scholarships in their financial aid offerings and on their websites,” Goldstein said.”

Other authors of the research letter are UNC Family Medicine postdoctoral research associate Sarah Kowitt, PhD, MPH, former Tobacco Intervention Program research assistant Karina Paci, MD, and undergraduate researcher Guido Baler.

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