A recent report released on Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics presents information, which suggests that adolescents who would not be inclined to use tobacco products are now turning to e-cigarette devices.
According to USA Today, the report is based on a study which identified that while the overall smoking prevalence among teenagers in Southern California has declined, the combined use of e-cigarettes or cigarettes was substantially greater than before e-cigarettes became readily available. The conclusion on the study poses the question of whether e-cigarettes are merely a substitute for cigarettes or are being used by teenagers who would not be smoking otherwise.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that among middle and high school students, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product, with an estimated 2 million users in that particular age group. While the rate of cigarette smoking has declined among American teenagers in recent years, there has been a substantial increase of other tobacco products notably e-cigarettes and hookahs according to the report.
E-cigarettes, unlike traditional cigarettes, do not contain substances such as tar or other chemicals that are generated by the combustion of tobacco. This implies that e-cigarettes are perceived to be a safer alternative as opposed to traditional cigarettes, which present a high risk of tobacco-related diseases. However, health care experts are concerned that users of e-cigarettes would in turn create a new generation of smokers and thus cigarette use would be normalized. Brian Carter, the director of scientific communications at The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, a group dedicated to guaranteeing the availability of smoking alternatives, questions those who prefer not to smoke and choose to use e-cigarettes. He states that the transition to e-cigarettes is a “really nasty alternative” for users.
Furthermore, a 2015 National Institute on Drug report conveys that over 60% of middle and high school students have stated that vaporizing was simply “just flavoring.” However, additional findings highlight that some products labeled nicotine-free may actually contain nicotine.
Harold Farber, policy chair at the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Tobacco Control and pediatric pulmonologist at Texas Children’s Hospital points out that the adolescent brain is highly malleable and thus the addiction to the nicotine substance is more severe and difficult to kick in those who begin smoking at a young age.
In addition, the Food and Drug Administration issued new rules in May that an extended regulation would come into effect with the intention of keeping tobacco products out of the hands of minors.
Young people under the age of 18 are banned from purchasing e-cigarettes and manufactures are required to register with the FDA, disclose detailed reports of their products’ contents and obtain permission to sell their products. Farber concludes that the transition to e-cigarettes as an alternative is a hindrance to the battle of adolescent cigarette use.