Every day millions of people try to kick the smoking habit through a variety of methods including vaping. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States alone, cigarette smoking is the cause of more than 480,000 deaths per year. By the year 2030, if the use of tobacco does not change, the CDC estimates that more than 8 million people per year globally will die from diseases caused by smoking.
It has been proven that on average those who smoke reduce their lifespans by at least 10 years. For teens, if the rate of usage continues, it is estimated that 5.6 million of young people alive today will die prematurely due to a smoking-related illness.
These figures, as scary as they are, are encouraging more and more Americans to attempt to quit smoking. However, for many, the journey is not easy and frankly, impossible. While there have been many products to help people wean off of their dependency to nicotine such as the nicotine patch, others try to just quit cold turkey or in other words, to just stop smoking. Others find that switching to an e-cigarette or vape offers them an easier transition than simply stopping and experiencing the side effects and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
With little known about the effects of vaping, is it really a better alternate than using tobacco products?
Unfortunately, there are many unknowns about vaping including the chemicals that you are exposing yourself to. Without significant research into the long-term effects of vaping, scientists have not conclusively determined that it is a healthier option to smoking tobacco. In fact, e-cigarettes contain nicotine just like traditional cigarettes and are proving to be just as addictive.
Many smokers who are using the e-cigarette as a cessation tool find themselves continuing to smoke traditional and e-cigarettes because of the addictive characteristics.
In a study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, researchers measured the trends and attitudes about e-cigarettes from a pool of 44,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders from across the United States. According to the results, the number of high school seniors using a vaping product is up from 27.8% in 2017 to 37.3% in 2018. This astonishing jump in usage can be attributed to the ingenious marketing techniques of innovative manufacturers of the Juul and other e-cigarette devices.
By catching the eye of impressionable young people, advertisers have captured a new market for their vaping products. Fortunately for them, they are also riding the wave of several misconceptions that teens have about vaping compared to traditional nicotine cigarettes.
Let’s look at some of these myths about vaping as seen through the eyes of a teenager.
- “Vaping is not bad for my health like regular cigarettes.” – As we’ve already discussed, there is little research to prove that e-cigarettes are NOT still carcinogenic. Through the process of heating nicotine and additives which make them taste better than regular cigarettes, an e-cigarette is directly infusing chemicals into the body. Many of these flavorings on their own may be harmful to a person’s health if consumed let alone inhaled as a vapor.
- “I am not getting addicted to nicotine by vaping.” – Unlike popular thought, e-cigarettes do contain nicotine which is a highly addictive substance, the long-term effects of which have been studied for years. Nicotine raises a person’s blood pressure, increases adrenaline and puts additional strain on the heart. Prolonged use of tobacco products or those containing nicotine is proven to harm every organ of the body.
- “I won’t smell like cigarette smoke if I vape.” – While it is true that e-cigarettes and the mist that they generate do not have any scent, the flavorings that are added to make them more appealing to teens do. For example, many marketing companies are now targeting the younger market with tempting concoctions such as bubble gum, fruit punch, watermelon, apple pie or mint.
- “I can’t die from vaping.” – Originally touted to be the “safer” alternative to smoking, the recent illnesses and deaths we have seen in the news as of late prove otherwise. Vaping has been identified as the cause of each of the hundreds of reported lung illnesses according to the Food and Drug Administration.
In recent studies, it has been discovered that more and more people, and teens in particular are turning to vaping for reasons other than to help them quit smoking. Instead, research suggests that vaping has been marketed to adults and teens promoting improved social image. It is now deemed to be “cool” to vape in the bathroom at school and at social events. Because there is virtually no noticeable odor, teens even find it exhilarating to vape in the classroom when the teacher is not paying attention.
But the question still remains, how are tobacco companies marketing to teens? According to a study conducted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the founders of Juul intended for the e-cigarette device to be sleek and attractive and could be mistaken for a USB drive similar to ones that students use for their schoolwork. Marketing campaigns typically display attractive young people enjoying life while holding onto their e-cigarette. They strategically placed their colorful, vibrant ads in places where teens tend to frequent: social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and encouraged teens to try out their favorite flavors of the Juul product and then share it with others.
Although Juul is adamant that they do not market to teens, they have recently shut down their Facebook and Instagram accounts. However, vaping is so ingrained in youth culture through their original targeted marketing that youth naturally promote the product and even use the term “juuling” to refer to vaping and e-cigarette devices.
Social media posts even from adult consumers and third-party vendors tend to use slogans and icons that youth can relate to such as Sponge Bob Square Pants and Gummi Bear flavored tobacco. Juul-related memes and even TikTok videos help to spread the brand and its youthful appeal even though Juul itself is no longer advertising to the teen market.
In what officials are calling a youth e-cigarette epidemic, 5 million high school and even middle school students are being sucked into the novelty and marketing tricks of big tobacco companies. The surge that is being experienced in the United States in the usage and addiction of e-cigarette products threatens the progress that has been made to stop kids from smoking. Statistics show that teens who vape are more likely to become smokers. As a public health emergency, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is urging the FDA to restrict where certain flavored e-cigarettes are sold and the advertising that is targeted at youth.
According to an FDA spokesperson, Michael Felberbaum, “the FDA is committed to continuing to tackle the troubling epidemic of e-cigarette use among kinds. This includes limiting youth access to, and appeal of, flavored tobacco products like e-cigarettes and cigars, taking action against manufacturers and retailers who illegally market or sell these products to minors, and educating youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.”
As parents of a teen, where do you fit in this battle against vaping? The days when a parent caught a whiff of a cigarette and busted their child in their room with a cigarette are sadly gone. Now, it is important to understand the ways in which teens are exposed to advertising for vaping products as well as the signs that your child may in fact be vaping. We have looked at the sly ways that marketers entice teens to try vaping with the allure of tasty flavors and the appeal of gaining social recognition. There are also some things that you should look for as a parent if you suspect that your child is using an e-cigarette device.
- Although most vaping products do not have a scent, many cartridges now have interesting flavors that appeal to young people. If you suddenly smell a hint of watermelon or bubble gum but don’t see the evidence of either, consider the fact that your teen may have recently taken a puff of a Juul.
- The vapor produced from e-cigarettes has a tendency to dry out the nasal passages and can therefore cause sudden nosebleeds in your teen. If your teen has never been prone to nosebleeds before, this may be a sign that vaping is involved.
- Juul pods or cartridges contain propylene glycol which attracts water molecules from the environment, or namely, the mouth. When a person has been using an e-cigarette, they tend to experience dry mouth and an insatiable desire for water. Keep an eye on the intake as a clue to vaping!
- E-cigarettes have been designed to pass inconspicuously as other common objects that may be present in a teen’s room or backpack. From USB drives to pens to a Stylus, e-cigarettes are easily concealed and may be difficult to identify if found. Keep an eye out for a new “pen” or flash drive as it could easily be a vape device. The difference will be that this item will have holes on each end. Vaping devices can even be small enough to be concealed inside a highlighter.
- Research has shown that teens who vape may show signs of a smoker’s cough, or otherwise unexplained, cough and throat clearing. It has also linked vaping to mouth sores that do not heal on their own.
If you suspect that your child may be vaping, help them to understand the dangers of vaping and what it is they are actually inhaling. If you try to make them stop, this may in fact make them want to do it even more so try the route of dialogue and open communication instead. When teens understand the risks involved, they are more likely to accept that it is unhealthy for them and that vaping equates to making a poor decision.
After speaking with your teen about the risks associated with vaping, if you are still concerned or have other questions about your teen’s vaping, you should seek the advice and counsel of the trained counselors and therapists here at Beachside. They can guide you with some conversation starters as well as some additional things to look for to know if your teen is vaping.
Vaping seems to be putting teens at a higher risk to smoke tobacco products and in this fight to prevent kids from smoking, society is taking one giant step backward.