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E-cigarettes: A New Addiction for Kids?

Recently, consumers have been exposed to an influx of promotion for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Though advertising is presumed to be aimed at the general adult population, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students doubled in one year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), equating to more than 1.78 million kids experimenting with e-cigarettes.

A CDC study also showed that, while e-cigarette use is most common among youth who use traditional cigarettes, a significant percentage of them are now only using e-cigarettes, especially younger age groups. Among middle school students who reported use of e-cigarettes, 20.3% said that they never smoked a traditional cigarette, compared to 7.2% among high school students.

The American Lung Association has stated that one of the reasons why e-cigarettes have become so popular so quickly among youth is that the e-cigarette manufacturers, much like the tobacco industry, have quickly become experts in manipulation and persuasion. E-cigarettes are sold in dozens of flavors that appeal to kids, including cotton candy, bubble gum, Atomic Fireball, and orange cream soda. Thankfully, Florida state legislators voted into law (effective July 1, 2014) that e-cigarettes could not be sold to minors; however, regulation is not uniform across the country.

“Using an e-cigarette can begin kids on a lifelong addiction to nicotine and tobacco products,” said Paul G. Billings, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Education, American Lung Association. “Data shows the urgent need for oversight of these products.”

The American Lung Association and other health authorities are very concerned about e-cigarette use, especially among youth populations; and whether use can lead to child and adult demographics progressing into regular cigarette habits. American Lung Association states the following to be of most concern:

  • Nicotine in any form is highly addictive, whether delivered through a conventional cigarette or the electronic counterpart.
  • The potential harm from secondhand e-cigarette emissions is unknown. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a well-known carcinogen) coming from secondhand emissions.
  • There is no regulation of e-cigarettes’ ingredients.  With no oversight of these products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no way for consumers to know how much nicotine or other chemicals are contained in e-cigarette products. Consequently, there is also no way of knowing what the short-term and long-term health implications may be.
  • It is not an FDA approved quit smoking product. No e-cigarette has been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective product to help people quit smoking.

It is most important for parents and children to have frank and open discussions about the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes. What are your views on e-cigarettes, both for children and for adults? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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