What started off as an effort to curb adult smoking, ended in an epidemic as the nation’s youth got hooked, creating a new generation of smokers.
Since its initial release in 2003, the electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) has been gaining more and more popularity among today’s youth, causing an outbreak in vaping related illnesses.
The e-cigarette is described by Wikipedia as, “A handheld battery-powered vaporizer that simulates smoking and provides some of the behavioral aspects of smoking, including hand-to-mouth action of smoking, but without burning tobacco.”
As of recently, the e-cigarette has led to the deaths of over 800 people across the nation, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The product’s initial purpose, to curb adults from smoking, has since gained attention from teens as young as thirteen-years-old.
A major company and provider of the e-cigarette known as Juul, explained in their mission statement that their goal was to, “Improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.”
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that one in 20 middle school students and one in five high school students regularly use e-cigarettes.
Another study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed almost ten percent of eighth graders use e-cigarettes regularly, with nearly double the amount being males.
“I was 16 when I started vaping,” recalls Jameson Gorman, a senior at Seton Catholic Preparatory. “I started because all my friends would do it and didn’t stop until a little over a year later.”
The e-cigarettes growing popularity among youth has been caused by a multitude of variables including peer pressure, over exposure to advertisements promoting the products, and the recent release of flavored vapes.
According to a 2016 study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over ten million teens are exposed to e-cigarette ads through the internet alone.
“Given the increase in vape use, and the deaths from vaping, there is a general recognition that far more must be done to prevent youth from using vapes/e-cigarettes,” explained Professor Scott Leischow of the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University.
As a result of the increasingly alarming epidemic, the Trump administration has discussed banning all flavored vape products from the market, in attempts to curb appeal.
A study done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse showed that when comparing non-users to e-cigarette users, there is over a 20 percent increase in the likelihood of them starting smoking.
Unlike the majority, however, there are still some teens choosing to stay away from the harmful product, acknowledging its addictive nature.
“It’s just not worth it to me,” said Zachary Freeman, a senior and baseball player at Sierra Canyon School. “The nicotine in general is awful for you. People think that just because it’s not a cigarette it’s not as harmful, but it is.”
Among efforts to contain the epidemic and spread awareness are multiple campaigns such as ‘The Real Cost,’ which depicts possible results of long-term e-cigarette use.
Additionally, the Juul company has recognized its detrimental effects and has chosen to remove all flavored vapes, besides the traditional tobacco and menthol flavors.
Due to these efforts, Professor Leischow predicts, “It is very likely vape use by adults and youth, and the fact that Juul has recently announced layoffs because they have already decided to eliminate flavors is an indicator of that probability.”
Since the elimination of their other flavors, Juul has announced they will be laying off nearly 500 jobs as they adjust to this new change and shift in the company’s focus, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.