A recent government study revealed teenage electronic cigarette use has tripled since 2011. On November 13, the Center for Disease Control released data from its National Youth Tobacco Survey given to approximately 18,000 adolescents. According to the survey, 46 percent of high school students—the equivalent to several million—have tried some form of tobacco during their lifetime. In the past 30 days, 4.5 percent of the teenagers used electronic cigarettes compared to a smaller 2.5 percent of U.S. adults.
Manufacturers market e-cigarettes as a safe, smoking cessation alternative. CDC findings show nine out of ten adult smokers started smoking as teenagers. This larger group of teens smoking e-cigarettes will eventually lead to more adult nicotine addicts. Shouldn’t we then question the smoking cessation benefits?
E-cigarettes are trendy looking tech devices that resemble actual cigarettes. They are battery-driven (rechargeable lithium ion) and contain an atomizer that heats up liquid nicotine, flavoring and varying chemicals. The unit discharges a vapor when inhaled. They are available for purchase online in stylish colors. Teens can choose from flavors like fruits, energy drinks, milkshake and gummy bears.
The FDA has issued an advisory that e-cigarettes are not emissions-free. Vapor produces smaller particles compared to traditional cigarette smoke enabling it to travel deeper into the lung tissues and causing more widespread secondhand distribution. Yet, we still have no long-term studies. The University of Athens Greece conducted a short-term study using a small sampling of smokers and nonsmokers. After only ten minutes of smoking e-cigarettes participants showed decreased lung functions. While e-cigarettes may be the lesser of two evils, officials warn they do not come without health consequence.
Earlier this year, the CDC predicted that 5.6 million of today’s youth up to 17-years-old will die prematurely of smoking-related illnesses. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. One in five deaths are due to smoking. Physicians and researchers warn that e-cigarettes are not exempt from causing lung-related issues and agree nicotine has a negative effect on the teenage brain. For example, the Surgeon General warns teenagers who smoke are eight times more likely to smoke marijuana and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. It is apparent the vast majority of teenagers are not using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid. Officials have reason for alarm.
According to the CDC, there has been a steady decline in overall adult smoking the past several decades and we have seen an overall decrease in U.S. teen smoking since 2012. When we change the perception of e-cigarettes being safe is when we will see U.S. teenagers smoking them less. Let’s start now.