Over the last twenty years, teen use of tobacco products has, thankfully, drastically decreased. There may be a number of reasons for this, including the aggressive efforts of anti-smoking campaigns, many of which are funded by money paid out by tobacco companies as part of the huge lawsuit against them that changed the way tobacco companies are able to advertise and cracked down on marketing campaigns clearly aimed at young people. Recently, however, health officials have noticed a disturbing trend that threatens to once again create a spike in teen tobacco use. Children as young as twelve years old are reportedly using “e-cigarettes,” in growing numbers.
What is an e-cigarette?
E-cigarettes are electronically powered devices that emit vapors containing nicotine. They may be unflavored, or may come in flavors like chocolate and cherry, which makes them particularly attractive to young children. E-cigarettes are frequently marketed as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, but there has been little or no long term research to support this claim. The devices are not regulated by the FDA and contain high amounts of nicotine, which is the most addictive chemical in cigarettes. A person who uses e-cigarettes may become addicted to them very quickly and children who use the devices may easily become addicted and much more prone to move onto traditional tobacco products like cigarettes.
Use Growing at a Steady Rate
A recent study reports that the number of junior high students who have used e-cigarettes in the last month has doubled. While this number is still relatively low, at 2%, the fact that it has grown so steadily in the last year is not a good sign for parents and loved ones of junior high aged kids. While only 2% say they have used e-cigarettes in the last month, 7% have tried them at least once. It is highly possible that, unless something is done to stop children from accessing and trying these cigarettes, their rates of usage may continue to increase.
E-cigarettes Are Attractive to Young People
Unfortunately, children may be more tempted to try e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes for a number of reasons. E-cigarettes emit a vapor that is less harsh or difficult to inhale than regular cigarettes. This makes them easier for kids to smoke. The sweet flavors may be immediately pleasing to kids, who may at first be put off by the harsher taste of traditional tobacco products. E-cigarettes also leave a less severe smell on a person’s clothing and hair, which may make it easier for kids to hide usage from parents and teachers. Many kids may also take e-cigarettes from their parents, who may not notice that the device has been used, versus cigarettes, which are clearly countable.
The Dangers of Early Nicotine Addiction
When children become addicted to nicotine, they are putting themselves at risk for a lifetime of tobacco abuse. Nicotine is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, and a person who becomes addicted to nicotine at a young age faces a very high chance of struggling with addiction for a good part of their life. The sad reality is that many of the kids who are using e-cigarettes are too young to realize how serious nicotine addiction is, and may be subjecting themselves to a lifetime of problems, even though they are far too young to comprehend that decision.
Sales of e-cigarettes to minors have been outlawed in twenty states, but even in those areas, minors may have access to e-cigarettes through their parents, older siblings, or the families of their friends. Talk to your child about the dangers of e-cigarettes and explain that there is no such thing as a safe nicotine product.