Teen Interest in E-Cigarettes Dramatically Rises
The use of electronic cigarettes has been increasing rapidly among teens nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014. The increases in e-cigarette and hookah use offset declines in use of more traditional products, such as cigarettes and cigars, resulting in no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014. In addition, studies show that e-cigarettes are being used for dual purposes. Nearly one-fifth of high school students who use e-cigarettes have also used them to smoke marijuana.
What is an E-Cigarette?
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices often designed to look and feel like regular cigarettes. They use cartridges filled with a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. A heating device in the e-cigarette converts the liquid into a vapor, which the person inhales. Since the e-cigarette delivers nicotine to the lungs through the inhaled vapor, use of e-cigarettes is commonly called “vaping.” As mentioned before, hookah use is also increasing among teens. A hookah is a water pipe that is used to smoke flavored and sweetened tobacco.
Why Do Teens Use E-Cigarettes?
There are three common reasons that teens use e-cigarettes:
- Many teens who use e-cigarettes say they enjoy performing tricks with the vapor, such as blowing smoke rings or creating funnels of smoke that look like tornadoes. Youth feel that vaping tricks are fun and a great way to garner attention from their peers. Teens can learn how to do vaping tricks through videos posted on social media and also at local vape shops that hold “cloud competitions.”
- Teens love the flavoring in the nicotine liquid used in e-cigarettes. Manufacturers blend a wide range of flavors in the nicotine liquid, including many fruit flavors, cappuccino, cotton candy, margaritas, and single-malt scotch. Of middle and high school students that use tobacco, 70% use flavored products.
- Many youth are under the false impression that vaping is a “healthy” way to smoke.
Are E-Cigarettes Safer Than Regular Cigarettes?
Don’t let your teen buy into the hype that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking. While people using e-cigarettes do not inhale the same amounts of tar and carbon monoxide as they would with a regular cigarette, users still receive an unhealthy does of nicotine and other chemicals. E-cigarettes (and hookahs) are not “safe” – they are just another way of putting the highly addictive drug, nicotine, into your body.
“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.”
Are E-Cigarettes Illegal for Teens?
There are currently no federal regulations against selling e-cigarettes to minors; however, several states have passed laws establishing a minimum age for the purchase of e-cigarettes or extending smoke-free laws to include e-cigarettes. There are currently only nine states that still allow the sale of e-cigarettes to children. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration is working now to finalize a rule to bring additional tobacco products (e-cigarettes, hookah, and cigars) under the same federal authority as cigarette tobacco.
The National Institutes of Health reports that youth who use e-cigarettes by the time they start 9th grade are more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes within the next year. The Surgeon General states that 90% of all smokers tried their first cigarette as a teenager, and 3 out of 4 teen smokers continue the habit into adulthood. Clearly, e-cigarettes pose just as much threat to our teenagers as regular cigarettes, and parents must talk to their teens about these products just as they would about any other drug.