Cancer, heart disease, and death. These are just a few of the hazards that smoking presents. As long as smoking has existed, teenagers have been abusing it. Smoking has become ingrained in teen culture through movies and years of trying to fit in. But everyone knows you shouldn’t smoke, and teens are not doing it as much as they used to. However, vaping, a new form of nicotine consumption, has been rushed into the market, and teenagers are abusing it like mad. And while vaping has seemingly taken the place of smoking in teen culture, its effects may prove to be more serious than ever.
Teens are smoking less and less and vaping may be part of the reason why. On the surface, it appears that declining teen smoking rates are something to be excited about. But looking closer, we may see that teens are opting for alternatives rather than abstinence.
Teen smoking rates have been steadily declining for years and are now at an all-time low according to a 2011 survey. There are many reasons for this trend. Increased knowledge of the health risks of smoking plays a large part. Many experts believe that teen targeted anti-smoking advertisements have played a significant role in the last decade. But many experts ignore or fail to report the fact that the decline in the teen smoking rate is likely due, in part, to vaping. In fact, the steady decline in the US smoking rate has sped up in the four years since vaping exploded in popularit. The smoking rate has been declining for multiple reasons, but vaping often act entirely as a deterrent rather than a replacement. Research shows that teens may be getting into vaping early and are therefore using vapes instead of beginning to smoke in the first place.
Researchers are seeing that the decline in teen smoking rates in particular is being affected by vaping. Vaping has begun to be identified with teenagers before all else. “Vaping is more common among teens than adults. About 13 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes or other vaping devices”. This eye opening fact shows that despite their declining rates of smoking teenagers aren’t exactly avoiding these addictive behaviors, and some experts are worried. “Not only has vaping usurped smoking tobacco among those under 20, it came along as youth smoking rates were declining and threatens to erase the health benefits from the gains”. But not everyone agrees that vaping will erase all the ground that has been made involving the health of teenagers.
Vaping provides a debatably healthier alternative to smoking. In 2015 it was concluded that high school students were far more likely to have vaped than smoked cigarettes. Whether or not this is a good thing is hotly debated.
What research shows us is that vaping is healthier than smoking, but is far from healthy. E-cigarettes do not deliver tar or carbon monoxide, and contain only 18 of the 79 toxins in cigarettes. There are concerns that vaping may expose users to metals and particulate matter, but the researchers note that this could be addressed with regulation (Picard). So it’s easy to see that vaping may have less of the risks that smoking does, but may also introduce some of its own. What researchers tend to agree upon is that overall, vaping appears to be safer than the alternative. Common sense shows us that burning something creates risks that vaporizing simply does not. Combustion is a chemical reaction with its own byproducts while heating something up is not, giving a distinct health advantage to vaping. Smoking also puts bystanders at a higher risk. “Vapour contains “exponentially lower levels of cancer-causing agents” than cigarettes, and vapour dissipates in about 30 seconds, compared to 18-20 minutes for tobacco smoke”. This means that second hand vape is almost non-existent, making it a much safer product for teens to use around their friends. These groups of friends have historically been the cause of teen smoking. With vaping available as an alternative, these teens have been able to create a culture around it while still having the feeling of fitting in. Many would say that this observation is irrelevant, and defeats the purpose of trying to eliminate smoking in teens. However, it’s important to be realistic and realize that many teenagers will try to fit in with their friends and are inclined to rebellious behavior. This alternative vape culture creates a similar social atmosphere but is estimated to be 85 to 95 percent safer than smoking (Oz). This alternative method of inhaling nicotine was created entirely as a safer option than smoking, which shows its potential, but can also be worrisome for those who hope to keep teens entirely abstinent.Vapes were created for, and are advertised as, an alternative to adult smoking. While this seems not to be applicable to a discussion on teen smoking, it’s important to note that minors tend to try to get their hands on anything they find cool that is purposed for adults only. Changes in the adult markets tend to carry over, albeit less documented, to teenagers.
Vaping was introduced as a way to help smokers quit. Many experts at the time predicted that the devices would work for this purpose. “When e-cigarettes came on the market in 2007, some public health experts hoped that they would serve as a substitute for traditional tobacco products and lead to declines in tobacco use”. This claim of helping smokers quit has not been well documented to be effective, however. Some studies suggest that, while vapes are often marketed as an alternative to smoking, vaping can make it even harder for long time smokers to quit. In addition to a questionable track record of helping smokers, many fear that vaping simply provides another bad habit for people to adopt. That makes them a potentially useful tool to help smokers quit, but some public health experts worry it also creates a new way for people to get addicted to nicotine. These findings have prompted a heavy comedown of federal agencies on the newly introduced and largely unregulated vape market. Almost all e-cigarette companies spend time and money trying to convince the government that their products are solely meant for quitting smokers (Quinton). Despite these findings, there is surely a real promise of helping smokers quit. Vaping is no less effective in helping smokers quit than other methods. The hard truth is that the percentage of people who actually quit is very low. But vaping has a distinct advantage. It provides the same feeling and fidgeting capabilities of actual smoking in a way that gum and patches simply cannot.
While it can keep teens from smoking, teen vaping is beginning to reach incredible levels. As vape culture and teen culture continue to mesh, we can see vaping taking over lives. School, home, car rides, and essentially any other place are prime places for teens to vape. The concealable, subtle devices are so accessible that teens are using them all the time. These devices can be a distraction and put strain on teenagers’ productivity. And while they are advertised as an adult-targeted device, the marketing strategies of these companies point to the creation of a teenage vape epidemic.
Vaping can reach into every aspect of students’ daily lives, affecting school, homework, responsibilities, and even fun. Vaping is reaching in to the lives of many teens. In fact, the sheer number of teens who vape is staggering. “More than 2 million middle school, high school and college teens use these battery-powered devices to heat liquid-based nicotine into an inhalable vapor. E-cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product among teenagers: Nearly 12 percent of high school students and 3 percent of middle school students used the device in the past 30 days, according to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey released in June”(O’Donnell). This shows us that these devices are becoming incredibly popular with the youth, especially compared with the only 7% of high schoolers who reported smoking cigarettes. Vaping devices are extremely concealable, making them easy to hide and a distraction in environments like school. According to award winning reporter and researcher, Kate Zernike: Schools say the problem (Vaping) sneaked up on them last fall, when students arrived with a new generation of easily concealed devices that have a sleek high-tech design. The most popular, made by Juul, a San Francisco-based company that has received venture capital money, resemble a flash drive and have become so ubiquitous students have turned Juul into a verb.
“They can pin them on to their shirt collar or bra strap and lean over and take a hit every now and then, and who’s to know?” said Howard Colter, the interim superintendent in Cape Elizabeth. (Zernike)This increased concealability allows all day use, with some students going through the equivalent amount of nicotine as several packs of cigarettes in just a single day. As vaping continues to work its way into every nook and cranny of students’ lives, it begins to take shape as a very different habit than smoking. One that can easily take control anywhere at any time. One first hand teen notes, “it’s easy to get a nicotine high anywhere you are”. Teens find that this ease of access can make vaping even more distracting than smoking. “Kevin Kee, 22, took up vaping to give up smoking when he was starting college but found himself going back to smoking again when he noticed the Juul was “more ingrained in my life than cigarettes ever were””. This excess use has caused an increase in the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the frequency thereof, and many teens who vape have reported difficulty focusing during sports practice, at school, or while doing homework . Teenagers tend to combat these symptoms by using their inconspicuous devices at inappropriate times. This shows us that these devices are reaching far deeper into their lives than cigarettes ever could. Schools are seeing a skyrocketing number of cases involving students using vapes in restrooms, hallways, and classrooms. Leaving no smell and no signs behind means the vicious cycle of addiction can take over a student’s entire day instead of just a few smoke breaks.
The new age of concealable vapes has made it easy for vaping to work its way into every part of teens’ lives, and could prove vaping to be more life controlling than the cigarettes of the past.While vaping is claimed to be an adult quit smoking aid, its advertising and design are subtly targeted at teens. This means that the vape industry itself is actually encouraging the rise of teen vaping. The fact that such a large market is being aimed at teens gives some insight into why this is becoming such a widespread phenomenon among them. Like the cigarette advertising giants of the old days, vape companies claim to advertise to adults, while using subtle messages and aesthetics to appeal to the youth. Vaping has not been around long enough to garner the hate and government crackdowns that cigarettes have. So unlike the cigarette companies, brands like NJOY and Blu have not been forced to cease advertisement of their products.
Currently, the most nefarious vape brand is a California based company called Juul. The company advertises as a way to quit smoking, but makes their product appealing to the youth in many ways. As long time health care reporter Jayne O’Donnell discusses: “The attorney general’s office is investigating youth marketing by Juul, which attracts young vapers with its nicotine-packed products that can be easily hidden because it appears similar to a portable computer drive and its alluring social media presence”. Juuling has become synonymous with vaping. The company has made an incredibly quick rise to market superiority, and their secret may lie in their unofficial expansion from the adult market to intrigue minors as well. Many marketing experts agree that Juul has done a brilliant job in advertising to young people (Basu). Juul is not the only company using these tactics, and the widespread appeal of vaping to teenagers continues to grow. As discussed previously, many companies that produce vapes have switched to subtle, concealable designs. But these smaller devices perform poorly compared to their larger counterparts. So why would companies make these devices? Many think that they are designed specifically for people who need to hide them, those people being minors. These advertising and design tactics seem to be paying off for the large vape brands. Many young people who started smoking did so to look cool, and vaping seems to be taking its place among the youth. “I’m in it to, like, look cool and have swagger. That’s why I picked up cigarettes when I was in high school. Cigarettes made you look cool. I mean, that’s just fact.” Vaping, he thinks, makes him look even cooler”. What’s even more frightening is that the companies who produce the actual inhalant used by these vapes make several flavors that are undeniably aimed at children. Flavors like bubblegum and cotton candy are sure to attract new, young users who are wary to the harsh, foul taste of cigarettes. Large, powerful companies are subtly pushing vaping to youth to increase sales. This is only helping to expand the epidemic that vaping is becoming among teens.When teens start vaping, it may lead them to a lifetime of potential health issues. Most teens have become wise to the true danger of smoking, but no one quite knows what vaping will do to the population. And while some health issues have clearly arisen from vaping, it’s hard to tell what dangers (or lack thereof) may come from this new fad. Gambling has been around for years but, in the past decade they have only been extremely popular for a few years. This makes it hard to truly assess the health risks associated with the devices.
Major health concerns associated with smoking tend to show up decades after starting. No one really knows hows how vapes will affect humans in the long term. Vaping’s newness makes even more trouble for researchers. Not only is there no research on the long term effects of vaping, there just hasn’t been time for a significant body of short term research to be gathered either. Because smoking is so well understood, there is a conclusive answer to whether or not it’s harmful. Everyone agrees smoking is bad for you. But the research into vaping is largely conflicting and inconclusive. Many have looked into the validity of the current research on vaping and the only thing that. “Kevin Kee, 22, took up vaping to give up smoking when he was starting college but found himself going back to smoking again when he noticed the Juul was “more ingrained in my life than cigarettes ever were””. This excess use has caused an increase in the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the frequency thereof, and many teens who vape have reported difficulty focusing during sports practice, at school, or while doing homework . Teenagers tend to combat these symptoms by using their inconspicuous devices at inappropriate times.
This shows us that these devices are reaching far deeper into their lives than cigarettes ever could. Schools are seeing a skyrocketing number of cases involving students using vapes in restrooms, hallways, and classrooms. Leaving no smell and no signs behind means the vicious cycle of addiction can take over a student’s entire day instead of just a few smoke breaks. The new age of concealable vapes has made it easy for vaping to work its way into every part of teens’ lives, and could prove vaping to be more life controlling than the cigarettes of the past.
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