Last week the U.S. Surgeon General released a new report: “E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” and we shared information from the report regarding how the devices work and their risks. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and many users don’t understand the addictive nature of the drug, or that it can cause depression and difficulty paying attention and concentrating. Currently, more high school students are e-cigarette users than cigarette smokers and it is a business trend that only sees growth ahead.
In the past, teens chose their brand of cigarette to match their image. Now they can have an e-cig their way by customizing their vape look and flavor the way they want. It is a huge $2.5 billion business with $125 million spent per year for advertising. “In 2014, about 7 in 10 middle school and high school students – more than 18 million youth – said they had seen e-cigarette advertising,” on television, movies, magazines and at retail stores. All that exposure has dramatically increased teen e-cig use, and the devices are the “most commonly used form of tobacco by youth in the United States.”
E-cigs appeal to teens for several reasons. Teens are curious, and the custom devices allow users to create a product that is uniquely their own, which is a big attraction. “More than 8 of 10 youth ages 12-17 who use e-cigarettes said they used flavored e-cigarettes.” Users also believe the devices are “less harmful than other tobacco products,” with “more than 60 percent of teens believing that occasional use of e-cigarettes causes only little or some harm.”
Cigarette use is decreasing, but the e-cigarette trend is causing some who never desired to smoke a cigarette to take a look at these devices, which is a concern for public health advocates for several reasons. Studies have found that teens who start using e-cigarettes begin “smoking conventional cigarettes and other burned tobacco products such as cigars and hookah.” By using e-cigarettes “the number of youth and young adults who are exposed to nicotine” increases. Rather than quitting smoking, smokers turn to e-cigarettes to continue their nicotine addiction, and it “increases the likelihood that former smokers will again become addicted to nicotine by using e-cigarettes, and will start using burned tobacco products again.”
E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product on the market and scientists are still learning how they affect health. Whether through conventional tobacco products or e-cigarettes, there is enough evidence about the harms of nicotine. Talking about these harms with our children and students, and decreasing their exposure to e-cigarettes can decrease future tobacco and e-cigarette use. We all need to work together to protect our young people from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and dependency.
Click HERE for the entire 2016 Surgeon General E-cigarette Report.