For years, tobacco manufacturers have been pushing electronic cigarettes as a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes. Unfortunately, our youth have bought into this message. A new study from the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the fun flavors of e-cigarettes are appealing to teens in alarming numbers. These new results indicate troubling future consequences for today’s teenagers.
The study looked at over 16,500 teenagers to learn about their attitudes towards tobacco products. The researchers found that 61 percent of the teens who had smoked in the past 30 days used flavored e-cigarette products. Most of the youth who used e-cigarettes with fun flavors but didn’t currently smoke traditional cigarettes said they would likely start smoking the old-fashioned way. This is disturbing news for anyone who thinks that flavored e-cigs are an alternative to cigarettes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Fact Sheet on Youth and Tobacco Use, 90 percent of smokers take their first puff as teenagers. We all know that smoking is bad for our health thanks to decades of anti-smoking public service announcements, but our teens haven’t had that experience. Plus, young brains don’t process risk the same way, as anyone who’s ever had a teenager in the house knows. Youth see themselves as invincible and don’t worry about the long-term health effects of smoking. That makes them especially susceptible to picking up the habit.
Vaporizing has been in the news recently because of the federal government’s changing regulations. The Federal Drug Administration, or FDA, has stepped in to limit certain aspects of the electronic cigarette industry. Critics have opposed this new regulation because it requires costly testing and registration of every new e-cigarette technology, squeezing out small companies with innovative ideas. The Pediatrics study may give rise to a new form of criticism: The FDA isn’t going far enough. Although companies can no longer sell their products to minors, there are no regulations of flavors in the new policies. This means fun, teen-friendly flavors will still be produced.
Many tobacco companies have marketed e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco products. They even create nicotine-free versions of their popular flavors. These factors can lead teens to believe that e-cigs are safe and addiction free, ultimately normalizing smoking behavior and making youth more likely to pick up nicotine products. With flavors like bubble gum, tropical fruit and banana smoothie, it’s easy to see the appeal to impressionable teens. The study also found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes see tobacco as less harmful than youth who don’t smoke at all.
Unfortunately, the tobacco industry didn’t hesitate to criticize this study, as the head of the American Vaping Association called it a failure of the peer review process. It’s not surprising that they oppose research clearly showing the way their products harm our youth. Don’t let them suppress this information. Now that you know the truth, please share this article with your friends and think carefully before buying e-cigarettes for the teenagers in your life.
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