What do: Watermelon, Glazed Donuts, Strawberry Watermelon, Cinna Pop Deez, Berry Rush, Auntie Meringue, Blackberry Crumble, Lemon Tart, Apple Fritter all have in common? For one they all sound delicious, secondly they were some of the most popular e-juice flavors in 2018 per one online blog.
In 2018, 20.8 percent of high school students in the U.S. used e-cigarettes compared to 8.1 percent who used traditional cigarettes.1 The National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA) states that 66% of teens surveyed say they vape for the flavors, the next biggest reason is “I don’t know.”2 These are troubling answers to a product that contains one of the most addictive substances a person can put into the body, nicotine. Science has proven that nicotine changes how the adolescent brain develops, which happens up to age 25.
Flavors and marketing attracting youth to products that contain nicotine is not a new concept. Flavored cigarettes could be purchased until 2009, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally banned flavors except menthol in traditional cigarettes because flavors were viewed as a way to attract young people, and surveys showed youth smokers were more likely to use flavored products. E-cigarette companies are following the same playbook of tobacco industry by using catchy names, cool designs on their packaging, and even using celebrity endorsements and sponsoring sporting events and music festivals. Marketing of e-cigarettes is not regulated like the marketing of traditional cigarettes. When R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company released Joe Camel as their main advertiser, youth use of Camel cigarettes rose over 200 percent. Flavors, cool names, and bright packaging gives young people many misconceptions about a product.
Young people and adults say that vaping is less harmful than smoking, so what’s the big deal? Unfortunately, this statement is partially true. A study performed by the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park, confirmed that vaping exposes the body to less toxicants than smoking.3 The designation of “less harmful” is only true for current smokers who completely switch to use of e-cigarettes, not for people who have never smoked.3 The study also shows that for dual users of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes the exposure to toxicants were similar or higher than for people who just smoke.3 The 2018 study mentioned prior to that states that 11.3 percent of high school students in the U.S. used two or more tobacco products.1 These studies that are being done are very important to know the health effects of vaping, but also to allow for adults to have educated conversations with the young people in their lives about the use of these products. Unfortunately, the long-term health effects of vaping will not be known for many years.
One of the biggest issues of vaping is that studies show that young people who vape are more likely to move on to traditional cigarette use.4 Some studies state that youth who vape can be as much as seven times more likely to move on to traditional cigarettes than young people who do not vape.5 For public health officials who have seen the teen smoking rates drop to all-time lows, with New York’s at less than 5 percent for youth, vaping potentially could reverse decades of work.
Smoking traditional cigarettes is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world: over 480,000 people die in the U.S. from their own smoking each year. Make sure that the young people in your life are not fooled by the same marketing tactics and flavors that hooked generations of smokers and ultimately led to their death. You or your children may be vaping now, but what could they be doing in the future? Talk to them about vaping and other tobacco products. Let them know how you feel about them using these products. For more information on vaping visit the CDC, FDA, or NIDA.
Remember Prevention Works!