As states continue to pass laws that restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, this post from 2013 explores why they've become so popular with teens.
Good news! Cigarette smoking among American teenagers dropped to a record low in 2012.
Not so good news—Many teens are turning to a new alternative known as “e-cigarettes.”
What Are E-Cigarettes?
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.
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 Food and Drug Administration (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.
- Selling to Teens: While more than 20 states have banned store sales to people under age 18, e-cigs can still be bought online. Make no mistake about it—tobacco companies are in the business of making money!
Are 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 have said that e-cigs help them quit smoking. But so far, there is no evidence 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 (cancer-causing substances) and other toxic chemicals, whose long-term effects are unknown.
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, check out http://teen.smokefree.gov.
Comment on this post and tell us: Do you think e-cigs are a good alternative to smoking cigarettes?