Cigarette smoking among American teenagers dropped to a record low in 2012. But are teens turning to a new alternative known as “e-cigarettes”?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals as vapor that a user inhales, without producing actual tobacco smoke. Some people assume e-cigs are healthier than traditional cigarettes.
A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the use of e-cigs has doubled since 2011, raising the percentage of high school students who have tried them to 10%.
Why Are Teens Trying E-Cigs?
- Advertising: Traditional cigarette TV ads have been banned since 1970, but most e-cigs are not regulated by the FDA. Because of this, they do not fall under the same advertising and marketing rules, so tobacco companies have been buying TV ad time to push e-cigs.
- Flavors: The lack of FDA regulation has allowed tobacco companies to sell flavored e-cig products such as Bora Bora, with “pronounced notes of Exotic Island spice,” and Iced Berry, which claims to offer “immediate, irresistible refreshment.” These and other exotic flavors can sound very appealing to the younger crowd.
- Selling to Teens: While more than 20 states have banned store sales to minors, e-cigs can still be bought online. Make no mistake about it—the tobacco companies want your money!
Aren’t E-Cigs Better Than Traditional Cigarettes?
We don’t know. Some companies advertise e-cigs as a way to lower nicotine cravings while causing less harm than traditional tobacco products, and some people claim e-cigs help them quit smoking. But there’s no actual evidence yet to support this claim.
The FDA has found that e-cigs might be safer than regular cigarettes because they do not release tar, carbon monoxide, and other poisons found in cigarettes. However, e-cigs still release carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, whose long-term effects are unknown.
What if you inhale the vapor of a few of these things every day—what will that do to your body over time? We just don’t know—do you want to be a guinea pig?
What’s in the Future for E-Cigs?
The FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products may start regulating the sale of e-cigs. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act has given the FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products, and it will soon be decided if this includes the vaporized form of nicotine used in e-cigs.
For more information on electronic cigarettes, watch this NIDA TV Spotlight.
For information on safely quitting tobacco, see these smoking cessation products.
Comment on this post and tell us what you think: Do you know anyone who uses e-cigs?