Has Big Tobacco Found a New Appeal to Our Youth? — E-cigarettes
The home page of a Web site dedicated to disclosing the dangers of e-cigarettes features a pensive picture of a Justin Bieber-esque teen who possibly could be thinking about taking a puff off a Juul device.
The site, produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S Surgeon General’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health, is titled “KNOW THE RISKS.” It warns of the health outcomes associated with e-cigarettes and youths and stresses that the two do not mix.
“Adolescent years are times of important brain development,” the site states. “Brain development begins during the growth of the fetus in the womb and continues through childhood and to about age 25. Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain.”
Youths use e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes, and their use outnumbers e-cigarette use by adults, according to the site.
“No matter how it’s delivered, nicotine is harmful for youth and young adults,” it states. “E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine as well as other chemicals that are known to damage health. For example, users risk exposing their respiratory systems to potentially harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes.”
Not only are the brains and respiratory systems of youths in harm’s way, so are certain behaviors that can lead to addiction, mood swings and a desire to use alcohol and even narcotics.
“Scientists are still learning more about how e-cigarettes affect health,” according to the Web site. “However, there is already enough evidence to justify efforts to prevent e-cigarette use by young people.”
The Trump administration is working to ban flavored e-cigarettes. A new policy is coming from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that would require e-cigarette companies to get flavored versions of their products off the market.
“It’ll take several weeks for us to put out the final guidance that will announce all the parameters around the enforcement policy, and then there will likely be about a 30-day delay to effective date, as is customary,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a CNN article titled “Trump administration moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes.” “…at that point all flavored e-cigarettes other than tobacco flavor would have to be removed from the market.”
Health officials have argued that flavored e-cigarettes are too appealing to teens and vaping use has skyrocketed among high-schoolers, which the aforementioned “KNOW THE RISKS” Web site confirms, as does another CNN article titled “High school e-cigarette use has jumped nearly 80%. Now, the FDA wants new regulations”
“I’m also a father of young kids, and every time I go home and talk to parents of other kids…this is the number one thing I hear about,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNN, reacting to a statistic that one in five students uses e-cigarettes. “Parents are deeply concerned about the trends that they’re seeing in their high schools, in their middle schools.”
In a statement, Gottlieb said, “These data shock my conscience: from 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students. The total number of middle and high school students currently using e-cigarettes rose to 3.6 million – that’s 1.5 million more students using these products than the previous year.”
He vowed to stop to the spike.
“And the bottom line is this: I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes,” he said in the statement. “We won’t let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, of future disease and death, to continue to build. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to stop these trends from continuing.”
But tobacco companies claim flavored e-cigarettes help adults quit traditional cigarettes, a somewhat valid point but at what expense? In a study of nearly 900 British adults split into two trials while trying to kick the habit, 10 percent belonging to the group given gum, lozenges, patches and sprays – the conventional methods of curbing cravings – abstained for one year. The second group was give e-cigarettes, resulting in 18 percent abstaining for the same amount of time.
“This study is of huge significance,” Robert West, University College London’s director of tobacco, said in a third CNN article titled “UK study shows e-cigarettes help adult smokers quit, but US experts urge caution.” “It provides the clearest indication yet that e-cigarettes are probably more effective than products such as nicotine gum and patches.”
Jennifer Hobbs Folkenroth, of the American Lung Association, disagreed.
“Switching to e-cigarettes does not mean quitting,” Folkenroth said in the article. “Quitting means truly ending the addiction to nicotine, which is very difficult.”
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