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E-cigarettes may appeal to non-smoking youth

Of the more than a quarter of a million students who said they smoke e-cigarettes, 49 percent indicated that they will also smoke conventional cigarettes, whereas only 21 percent of the students who had never tried e-cigarettes intend to smoke conventional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes vaporize liquid nicotine and run on battery power. They are often used by adult smokers as a means of weaning off of traditional cigarettes, but studies suggest that e-cigarettes are offering a gateway to smoking for students instead.

A study published in the December issue of Pediatrics yielded similar results. Twenty-nine percent of the high school students surveyed by the study smoke e-cigarettes. Of those students, 12 percent also smoke traditional cigarettes. 

Other studies show higher rates of student smokers, which may be due to this study's location. The study was conducted in Hawaii where cigarettes taxes are higher than anywhere else in the U.S. Higher tobacco taxes are proven to decrease the number of new smokers, especially among teens.

A frequent misconception is that e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to smoking, but this is far from the case. E-cigarettes still offer a mode of consuming nicotine, which is a neurotoxin that threatens the health of the brain. Many e-cigarettes are made in China with little safety oversight, and are unregulated in the United States. Experts say this could be the cause of carcinogenic heavy metals found in some e-cigarette devices, which are reaching the shelves of American stores in bulk.

The New York Times reported that e-cigarettes are subject to less scrutiny in advertising, giving companies the chance to bring smoking back into vogue. Tobacco companies have bought several e-cigarette companies and are targeting teens with all their might, making e-cigarettes and “vaping” look cool, sexy and glamorous. Some experts have compared e-cigarette marketing to the "heyday of broadcast cigarette advertising from decades ago,” and companies with substantial money and power can afford to make e-cigarettes appealing, even to children.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering a regulation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but that process could take a year or more. In the meantime, there are no federal restrictions on e-cigarettes, their kid-friendly flavorings, or how they are marketed. 

VaporizerNot only do e-cigarettes pose the threat of introducing young people to tobacco use, they are also making it easier to get away with smoking marijuana. Vaporizer pens used to smoke pot are virtually indistinguishable from regular e-cigarettes, making it difficult for parents, school personnel and authorities to notice the difference. Vaporizer pens not only look much like e-cigarettes, they also lessen - or completely eliminate - the smell of weed, making it much harder to detect.

Sources: CDC, New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR)

Written by: Connect with Kids Educational Network
Posted: Jan 08, 2015 by Lisa Callaham

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