It’s no secret that many teenagers are exposed to and/or participate in dangerous activities: These may include drinking underage, taking illegal or prescription drugs, or in this case, smoking.
Recently, the United States has seen a dramatic increase in the use of electronic cigarettes, or more commonly known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs, among teenagers. The use of e-cigarettes has exceeded the use of all other tobacco products, including cigarettes, according to the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
According to data published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of electronic cigarettes among middle school and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014. The percentage of high school students that use e-cigs rose from 4.5% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014 which totals to approximately 2 million students. The number of middle school students that use e-cigs more than tripled from 120,000 students in 2013 to 450,000 students in 2014.
When teenagers were asked why they thought the use of electronic cigarettes are so popular, most teenagers agree that it is because the e-cigs make them look “cool” or “popular”.
“I found out about e-cigs from a friend and tried theirs. I think they’re popular because they think it makes them look cool and if you use juice with nicotine they can become addicting. I like to use my e-cig when I’m driving, studying, and just hanging out with friends,” said a senior girl.
Electronic cigarettes are battery powered vaporizers. They create a similar feel to smoking tobacco but instead of producing smoke, they produce a vapor. An atomizer heats a cartridge that holds a combination of liquid, flavorings, nicotine, and other various chemicals inside to its boiling point which then produces the vapor that is inhaled. The vapor can have a subtle scent depending on the flavor of the liquid but, unlike tobacco smoke, it does not linger and dissipates quickly.
Tobacco use, no matter at what age it is used, is dangerous, especially to young children and teens. Critical brain development occurs during adolescence and exposure to nicotine can cause lasting brain damage, promote addiction, and lead to continuous tobacco use according to CDC Director Tom Frieden M.D.
It may seem as though e-cigarettes are safer than smoking traditional cigarettes due to the fact that they produce a vapor instead of smoke which is the main concern when smoking tobacco. Because electronic cigarettes have only just recently come out and become popular, it is difficult to tell what the long-term effects are; although, they do only have a fraction of the harmful chemicals a traditional cigarette has. Doctors agree that e-cigarettes are a “safer alternative” to tobacco, but they do not encourage the use of any form of tobacco or alike products.
Although they may seem safe, electronic cigarettes do have factors that could lead to multiple health issues. First of all, they do contain nicotine which is the addictive substance found in traditional cigarettes. If one was to stop using an electronic cigarette, they could experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, depression, and anxiety. Nicotine use also leads to brain damage, especially among teenagers because their brains are not fully developed.
There is a huge debate on whether or not electronic cigarettes are a “gateway drug” and encourage users to use tobacco in addition to the e-cigarette. Many doctors and parents worry that e-cigarettes will introduce teenagers to traditional cigarettes as well. There is also the concern that the popularity, celebrity endorsements and giant advertising budgets of e-cigs will make smoking popular again and keep people from quitting or never start smoking at all. (http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/features/electronic-cigarettes)
Although the use of electronic cigarettes is rapidly increasing, the research and information known about its effects have come to a halt. For now, electronic cigarettes will be seen as a “safer alternative” to smoking tobacco but only time will tell how harmful it really can be.