Electronic cigarettes: How is youth being affected?

by Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko/Shutterstock.com

In a recent Center for Disease Control study, 20 percent of high school students admitted to using at least one type of tobacco product. This study also found that 11 percent of those high school students had used a tobacco product within the past 30 days. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a relatively new tobacco product that have become very popular due to the false perception that they are safer than traditional cigarettes. Do you know the risks associated with these products and the negative effects they can have on your body?

It is important for consumers to be wary of the fact that e-cigarettes contain more than just flavored water vapor. In fact, recent health studies show that e-cigarettes contain dangerous toxins that can cause cancer (carcinogenic). Most of these toxic agents are found in the fruit flavorings which contain high levels of a substance called Acrylonitrile, a chemical compound primarily utilized to make plastics and synthetic rubber. This and other carcinogenic chemicals can cause Popcorn Lung, a serious and irreversible lung disease that results in chronic coughing and shortness of breath. Other risks associated with e-cigarette use include mood disorders and permanent problems with impulse control.

Another alarming fact about e-cigarettes is that they can contain enough nicotine to lead to addiction. Some e-cigarette brands even sell cartridges that provide up to 200 puffs, or the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes! According to the CDC, 99 percent of e-cigarettes sold in U.S. convenience stores contain nicotine. However, one study found that only 63 percent of e-cigarette users’ ages 15-24 years knew that the products they were inhaling contained nicotine. Should a nicotine addiction develop, e-cigarettes may serve as a gateway drug to other forms of tobacco products.

As of October 2019, the CDC had confirmed 33 deaths and 1,479 lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes. Subsequently, on Jan. 2, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a policy prioritizing enforcement against certain flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to young adults to include fruit and mint flavors. Under this policy, companies were given 30 days to discontinue the manufacture, distribution, and sales of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes or face FDA actions. As our government takes action to inform, educate, and protect the general public, it is incredibly important for parents to educate their children and teens. No matter the brand, flavor, or packaging, tobacco remains an addictive and harmful substance with associated lifelong consequences. Let’s face the facts, have the discussion, and reduce the negative impact of tobacco.