The Teen Vaping Epidemic

The cigarette controversy has been a heated debate topic for the last several decades. The dangerous chemicals found in tobacco have been deemed fatal and have caused many forms of lung and oral cancer. Many laws and bans have been passed to reduce the number of smokers in the country.

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None have been near stopping the rising 480,000 people who die annually from inhaling toxic tobacco smoke. The social and physical aspect of smoking a cigarette has been attempted to be replicated by a new way to consume nicotine: electronic cigarettes. With the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes or e-cigs, the number of cigarette smokers has decreased, but the side effects of inhaling the unknown vapor can cause as much as popcorn lung to death.

The companies falsely advertise the side effects of vaping and the public has been misinformed. To avoid later illness, Vaping should be limited to certain flavors, have no social media attention or bribery, and clearer labels to scare off teen vapers. To begin, the tropical and delicious flavors that are sold to put in the e-cig device are appetizing to teens and children nationwide. The over 15,500 flavors can range from gummy bears to as strange as sriracha; these flavors intrigue teens and mask the flavor of tobacco. From the intriguing flavors and appeal, e-cigs have been proven to advertise to kids. In trying to lessen teen tobacco and e-cig use, California launched a Tobacco Control program: Flavors Hook Kids. This program informs the public of the true reason’s flavors and vaping attracts teens and kids.

A study launched by PLOS ONE found that “Preferring more e-cigarette flavors is associated with e-cigarette use frequency among adolescents but not adults.”(Morean et Al. para. 6) The conclusion of the study only furthers the reasons why the flavors are targeted towards teens, not adults and the number of flavors should be reduced. Furthermore, The vaping epidemic has been glorified by e-cigarette companies all across America. The Non-Profit Health Organization with various expert researchers and authors; Truth Initiative who focuses on revealing the truth about tobacco usage describes “The Marketing tactics e-cigarette companies use to target youth.” (Binkley para. 4) Some include offering scholarships, social media attention, sponsoring music festivals and events, and finally introducing appealing flavors as mentioned before. Truth Initiative quotes The Associated Press [a non bias press company] about how “‘E-cigarette manufacturers often say that their products are intended for adults who want to quit smoking; however, the AP reports that “although some of the scholarships are limited to students 18 and older — the nation’s legal age to buy vaping products — many are open to younger teens or have no age limit.” (Truth para.7)

These scholarships advertised to most eighteen-year-olds to encourage vaping, essentially bribing older teens to begin a lifelong habit. This also contradicts the belief that e-cig companies are not advertising to kids Along with Scholarships, Truth Initiative also discussed the social media attention vaping gets which ultimately targets teens who are, the social media generation. A new player in the vaping game shook up the social media buzz in a big way. The JUUL is a small flash drive looking device that comes in several fruity flavors and can be refilled easily. Over the past 3 years, the JUUL company has gained extreme popularity among teens. The JUUL companies early marketing campaign was clearly gearing their advertising towards teens. A study conducted by Open Access found that JUUL ‘Invested $1 million on marketing to the internet upon their release in 2015’ (Huang et al. para. 12). For example, when advertising the JUUL product it may be depicted as cool, relaxing or involving freedom. These images appeared on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

In mid-November, JUUL announced they would be taking down their Facebook and Instagram accounts due to massive teen followings and an influx of teen juuling. This also proves that there is a problem with the way that teens are accessing advertisements towards vaping and encouraging teens to think vaping is cool. Taking note of all of the numerous reasons advertising to teens has affected the recent popularity in teen vaping the medical effect of vaping and nicotine, in general, has not been discussed. The juice in the vape itself contains nicotine, and as all the labels on e-liquid bottles should read; nicotine is an addictive chemical. Not all bottles give this information let alone include what the ingredients are in the juice. Joseph G. Allen, an author for The New York Times writes an article looking at “The Formaldehyde in Your E-Cigs”. Allen states that “E-cigs often use propylene glycol and diacetyl to help transport nicotine flavors to create a bigger cloud.” (Allen para. 3) Formaldehyde is used in paper product coatings and the preservation of dead bodies in a funeral home. Diacetyl is used in many products to give it a buttery taste. These chemicals are only a few of many that have been found by scientists in the juice and some have not been found.

The effects of inhaling the juice are unclear and unknown. In contrast vaping is meant for adult smokers who are attempting to quit the unhealthy habit. A study conducted in the UK concludes that ‘E-Cigarettes help adult smokers quit.’ The author of the article describing the study; Sandee La Motte, argues that ‘combined with one on one behavior therapy e-cigs are more effective in helping people quit smoking [than traditional products]’(La Motte para. 1). To argue this one could agree with the FDA and use the two non-nicotine medicines to quit smoking rather than keep smoking something with such unknown consequences. Finally, to avoid later illness, Vaping should be limited to certain flavors, have no social media attention or bribery, and clearer labels to scare off teen vapers. The 15,500 flavors that do not attract adults should be limited to flavors that solely attract adults. In addition, there should be a ban offering scholarships and all companies should remove all social media presence.

And finally the medial side effects of vaping are highly unknown and the labels on bottles should contain more information than they already do. If nothing is done the generation of teen vapers will be lifelong and like smoking potential disease will emerge and affect the lives of many. Hopefully someday soon vaping will be as ‘uncool’ as smoking is today.  

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