Guest author of this post: Kristeen Cherney
For parents of teenagers, there is some good news out there when it comes to cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette use among children ages 13 to 17 declined almost 16 percent between 2011 and 2014. This indicates that cigarette smoking is not the fad it once was, and perhaps teens are taking education about the repercussions of cigarettes to heart.
Still, despite this positive outlook, there is some bad news: while cigarette smoking has decreased in this age group, e-cigarette use has increased. In fact, the CDC estimates that 13.4 percent of high schoolers try these products. Many will continue to use them on a regular basis.
Adolescence is a crucial period in which both personality traits and long-term habits form. While not everyone who tries an e-cigarette will be hooked for life, there is some real concern that these products can pose a danger to teens. Without intervention, some of these dangers may even last through adulthood.
What are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes is a short name for electronic cigarettes. Part of the attraction to e-cigarettes is the hope that they might help traditional smokers quit. However, there is no proof that this method works, nor whether or not it can make smoking cessation more difficult.
Instead of producing smoke, e-cigarettes emit vapor. They are small enough to fit in your pocket, and often resemble a USB drive. Instead of needing a match or a lighter, they are battery-operated. While these tobacco products are marketed as better alternatives to traditional cigarettes, the fact is that they are still cigarettes. They still contain tobacco, as well as highly addictive nicotine. Furthermore, the FDA doesn’t regulate them for safety.
While e-cigarettes are relatively new, there is no doubt that manufacturers have already found methods to target youth. For example, aside from nicotine, tobacco, and other chemicals, many e-cigarettes also contain “cartridge flavors.” Among these include mint, fruit, and coffee flavors. These can potentially mask the flavor of tobacco and make for a more enjoyable experience for young adolescents.
E-Cigarettes as a Trend
E-cigarettes are perhaps one of the quickest emerging tobacco products in recent history. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that there were more than 250 brands of e-cigarettes as of August 2015. What started as the occasional person “vaping” has transformed into a trend you see everywhere. It seems that every strip-mall has an e-cigarette store. You also can’t escape from the advertisements that run rampant on the radio and television. You may have even seen young adults handing out flyers for e-cigarette stores, which makes these venues seem even trendier.
Given such attention in the e-cigarette world, it’s no wonder that adolescents are increasingly drawn to such products. At the same time, e-cigarette manufacturers often market their products as methods of cigarette smoking cessation. From the perspective of a teen, then, e-cigarettes could be a justifiable alternative to smoking cigarettes. In other words, while this age group understands the dangers of traditional cigarettes, they might not be as privy to the dangers of the trendy electronic versions.
The Real Dangers for Teens
Despite the likenesses to traditional cigarettes, the fact is that e-cigarettes and regular tobacco products share many differences. Another big difference is the way these products are regulated. As of 2015, there is no federal law that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18. Many states have picked up the issue instead. Still, e-cigarettes are widely available for purchase by anyone on the Internet.
E-cigarettes are currently being studied for the potential of long-term health dangers. Until then, all we know is that traditional cigarettes can lead to a range of issues, including heart and lung diseases. Given the fact that electronic versions contain some of the same ingredients, one might wonder whether there are the same inherent risks.
What Can Be Done?
Education is the best solution to stopping the e-cigarette trend among adolescents. If your teen starts vaping now, there is a greater risk that he or she will continue through adulthood and their health will be greatly affected. Be honest with your teen and let them know you’re there to discuss the truth about e-cigarettes. Also, above all else, if you smoke or vape, it’s important that you set the example by quitting, too.
- Drug facts: Electronic cigarettes. (2015, August). Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes
- Youth and tobacco use. (2015, October 14). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/
Guest author of this post: Kristeen Cherney
Bio: Kristeen Cherney is a freelance health and lifestyle writer whose work has been published on numerous health-related websites. Previously, she worked as a communications and marketing professional. Kristeen holds a BA in Communication and an MA in English. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys walking, kick-boxing, yoga, and traveling.
Rubin Khoddam is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Southern California whose research and clinical work focuses on substance use issues and resilience. He founded Psych Connection with the goal of connecting ideas, people, research, and self-help to better connect you to yourself and those around you. You can follow Rubin on Twitter by clicking here!
Categories: Addiction Connection