Raising Utah’s nicotine limit poses health risks to children, says Drug Safe Utah

Jul 13, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 9:14 am

E-cigarettes are pictured on a shelf. According to the CDC, 14% of young people in the United State...

FILE - E-cigarettes are small and do not smell like traditional cigarettes, making it easy for children to take them to school or hide them from their parents. (Mike DeBernardo/Deseret News)

(Mike DeBernardo/Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that when a small Juul pod is filled with 5% nicotine, it contains the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. The story previously said the pod contained the same amount of nicotine as a single cigarette, which is incorrect.

SALT LAKE CITY — According to the CDC, 14% of young people in the United States are vaping. To keep that number from growing, a group is fighting to make sure Utah’s nicotine limit does not get raised. 

Why raise Utah’s nicotine limit?

According to the Utah State Bulletin, a publication of the Utah Office of Administrative Rules, a proposed change to Utah’s nicotine content cap (from 3% to 5%) is intended to better align with the FDA’s Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) process. The PMTA process is meant to ensure that new products, such as vapes, are in compliance with FDA standards for products containing nicotine. 

The bulletin says that the FDA requires “a showing that permitting the marketing of a new product would have a net benefit to public health, based upon the risks and benefits to the population as a whole, which includes youth, young adults, and other vulnerable populations.” 

A benefit of raising the nicotine level of vaping products, according to the Bulletin, could be that the product helps adult users quit using products containing more nicotine, such as cigarettes. 

Impacts on children

Gayle Ruzicka,  president of the Utah Eagle Forum, and a board member for Drug Safe Utah said that raising the nicotine limit could be harmful to children.

“We’re trying to get this message out that children are overwhelmingly vaping across this nation,” said Ruzicka. 

She said that they are urging the health department not to raise Utah’s nicotine limit to 5%. “That’s 67% more nicotine,” she said. Utah has capped nicotine content at 3%. 

Juul pods are an inch tall and two-thirds of an inch wide. According to Ruzicka, when the small pod is filled with 5% nicotine, it contains the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.

Why kids vape, and what it does to their bodies

According to The Journal of Medical Internet Research, stress relief and social pressure are factors that influence youth to vape. 

The journal said that youth choose vaping for the flavor and the ability to vape discreetly. Vapes and e-cigarettes produce a more pleasant smell. The journal also said that youth may choose vapes because they are newer than cigarettes. 

Nicotine has dangerous effects on the developing brain and lungs of children who use it. According to the National Library of Medicine, nicotine use by adolescents increases the chance of psychiatric disorders in later life. 

According to the CDC, nicotine can change the way the brain forms synapses. That can make children more likely to become addicted to nicotine more quickly. 

Finally, the CDC said nicotine is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. Each time a user ingests nicotine, it triggers the brain to release chemicals that make them feel good. Over time, the brain becomes dependent. 

Benefits of lower nicotine limit

Ruzicka said that of all fifty states, Utah has the lowest number of children addicted to nicotine. She said the low rate of nicotine use is partially due to the state’s low nicotine limit. 

“When we went to the 3% we (started seeing) those levels of children using and being addicted to vaping had gone down,” said Ruzicka. The more nicotine a vape contains, the more addictive it is, she added. 

To find more information on children, vaping, and Drug Safe Utah’s effort to keep the nicotine limit low, visit


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Raising Utah’s nicotine limit poses health risks to children, says Drug Safe Utah