E-cigarette and vaping semantics

Semantics is the study of meaning in language, and depending on how you word statements or questions, you may get different answers.  Take smoking, for example.  You may think of cigarettes, but there are other forms of smoking such as pipe, cigar and hookah.  The same could apply to the word vaping.  Teens have turned that word around and the vaping device has become the act.   Teens don’t vape, they Juul.

In trying to determine the number of teens vaping, health officials will have to specifically mention Juul as an example of an e-cigarette.  When the results of the National Youth Tobacco Survey comes out new language will specifically target Juul as one type of e-cigarette.  Those working on the survey anticipate an increase in e-cigarette use due to the updated language.

Last year government officials called teen vaping an “epidemic.  Between 2017 and 2018, high school e-cigarette use increased 78% nationally.  The previous survey named e-cigarette brands “Imperial Brands Plc’s Blu and Altria Group Inc.’s MarkTen” but didn’t include Juul.  Altria has since bought a 35% stake in Juul amounting to $38 billion and has discontinued their MarkTen brand of e-cigarette.  Juul will be added to this year’s survey and Suorin, a tear-drop shaped device that can be refilled with any e-liquid, will be added in 2020.

What made Juul so popular among teens is its use of social media.  While Facebook and Instagram don’t allow tobacco advertising, they do allow pictures of teens using tobacco and vaping products, and the hashtags would promote the device.  The Juul Twitter account refers to to them as @JUULvapor without mentioning them as an e-cigarette.  Under pressure from the FDA, the U.S. Facebook and Instagram accounts were shut down in November.

Juul product packaging now contains warning labels about nicotine and its addictive properties, but that wasn’t always the case.  Most earlier users didn’t know the product contained nicotine or was addictive.  A survey in November 2018 by Truth Initiative found 63% of Juul users 15 to 24 didn’t know the product contains nicotine.  And those who did know about the nicotine weren’t aware of potential downsides.  One 22 year old user who goes through a pod a day (nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes), said that Juul has “been marketed as something not damaging to our health at all.”  Research is now showing that e-cigarettes are probably as bad as traditional cigarettes.

The FDA is trying to do damage control with ads on Hulu, Facebook and Spotify warning kids that nicotine would reprogram their brains.  And new prevention ads regarding vaping products will be on television networks starting in May.  It’s a fine line between getting adults to switch to vaping products while not encouraging teens to take up vaping.

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