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E-Cigarettes As The New Tobacco

Over the past six decades, there has been a decline in the use of cigarettes and tobacco products. Meanwhile, the use of e-cigarettes, particularly among youth, has been gradually increasing. E-cigarettes, also known as vaping devices, are made up of four components that people use to inhale aerosol, often containing nicotine, flavorings, or other chemicals.

As e-cigarettes do not have many of the harmful components found in tobacco products, companies market them as a safer alternative. This perception leads people to use e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking, often without realizing the potential for an exacerbated nicotine addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2016, more than 30% of teens who started using e-cigarettes began to use tobacco products within six months. I believe e-cigarettes do more harm than good because they create new addicts. 

Most vaping products contain nicotine, an addictive chemical that can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, hypertension or lung disease. When vaping, nicotine is absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream and stimulates the adrenal glands to release epinephrine. Nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuits and raises dopamine levels, reinforcing pleasurable and rewarding behaviors. This causes many to continue using nicotine and ultimately develop a nicotine addiction.

According to the CDC in 2020, there have been 2,807 cases of hospitalized lung issues related to vaping products. When e-cigarettes became popular and perceived as safer and healthier, they attracted the younger population. The average e-cigarette user went from 25-45 years old to now 15-19 years old, with the most common reason for trying a vape being curiosity. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens often fail to realize that some of the e-cigarettes they use contain nicotine and believe that there is only flavoring, primarily due to misleading advertising by brands. A study done by Leventhal and his colleagues in 2015 revealed that teens who have used e-cigarettes by the age of 14-15 were more likely to start using tobacco products than their older counterparts.

While e-cigarettes may assist smokers in their cessation efforts, they are not FDA-approved, and there is insufficient evidence to support their effectiveness for long-term smoking cessation. Current FDA regulations prohibit minors from purchasing e-cigarettes in stores or online. Additionally, in November 2022, California passed Proposition 31, prohibiting tobacco retailers from selling most flavored tobacco products, which is a step towards limiting people’s access to purchasing e-cigarettes. I believe another step to limit the use of e-cigarettes in youth is implementing classes to educate individuals on the potential dangers associated with e-cigarette use.

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.)


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