Electronic Cigarettes and Teenagers
Electronic cigarettes and Teenagers
A lot of people talk about how electronic cigarettes may be getting more teenagers hooked on tobacco due to their nicotine content and the fact that they are much easier to obtain (at least for now) than analog cigarettes.
People also say that calling them a ‘healthier, cleaner alternative’ draws teens to them in an unhealthy fashion. Some say that calling e-cigs ‘clean’ might actually cause teens to think that there is no harm in trying an E-cig. This could then, in theory, lead the teen to get addicted to nicotine, which could then lead to him/her getting addicted to actual analog cigarettes, and so on.
This is really one of the biggest fears behind E-cigs… but is it a legitimate fear that is actually in danger of being manifested? Are teens really getting addicted to cigarettes because of preliminary involvement with E-cigs, or are these fears mostly just ‘fears’ that are not really based on facts?
The truth about teens and electronic cigarettes and their use among teenagers
Perhaps one of the most cited studies to indicate a rise in the use of E-cigs among young people was a National Youth Tobacco Survey that was compiled during 2011 and 2012. The results of this survey definitely indicate a rise in E-cig usage among teens. This survey is, of course, a US survey, but it does paint a seemingly accurate picture of what is going on in high school and middle school age groups as far as E-cigs are concerned.
Here are some of the stats. You can find information about the actual survey here: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0905-ecigarette-use.html
- The number of US middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.
- In 2012, 1.78 million high school and middle school students in the US had tried E-cigs at least once.
- Just over 76% of middle and high school students who had used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days had also used analog tobacco cigarettes during the same time period.
- 1 out of 5 middle and high school students who reported using at least one E-cig also reported that they had never tried a traditional ‘analog’ tobacco cigarette.
Of course, most people also know that, according to statistics, 90% of smokers begin their habit during their teenage years. When you lump all of this into the same conversation, it is not surprising that some alarms have gone off with public health officials concerning the possibility of nicotine addiction among young people.
On the flipside, however, many people have called these statistics ‘inconclusive’, stating that they do not necessarily reflect an increase in the likelihood that young people are indeed using E-cigs as a gateway to worse things, like analog cigarettes.
Still, the fact that the number of students using e-cigs doubled from 2011 to 2012 is definitely a wake-up call. There is probably no denying that most people are aware that there is definitely a problem, though exactly how to deal with it seems to be what everyone is disagreeing about.
What should be done about the problem?
As you probably know, E-cigs are on their way to stricter regulations beginning in 2016. At that point, they will be regulated almost as strictly as tobacco products are, on basically every level. Advertising methods will be limited, the products themselves will be monitored, companies will need to report their ingredients, and many other changes will come into effect. Hopefully, with these new regulations, we will start to see E-cigs made less available to the wrong people while still being available to those who have the right to use them.
In other words, these regulations will hopefully make it much more difficult for teens to obtain them. Once the new regulations take effect, it will be interesting to see if E-cig use begins to drop among students. Hopefully it will, though only time will really be able to tell.
If one thing is for sure, however, it is that E-cig use should be discouraged among young people. They may be cleaner and safer than analog cigs, but they do contain nicotine… a substance which is dangerous in more than trace amounts and very addictive in any amount.
Some have argued that E-cigs are far less harmful for young people to get ahold of, though this seems like a stretch to say. They may very well be safer than cigarettes, but to say that we should do anything but discourage their use among young people would be the wrong thing to say.