Vaping: E-cigarette use growing among teens with no regulation in sight



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students nearly tripled from 2013 to 2014. (Photo courtesy Handout/Tribune News Service)

by Rose Fiore, Reporter

Vaping has become a common activity for young people everywhere. According to the Washington Post, e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent between 2013 and 2014. Usage also more than tripled among middle school students. Unfortunately, many of these teens aren’t aware of the risks.

Compared to what we know about traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are advertised as a safer alternative, but the exact content of e-cigarettes isn’t known. According to Keith Wagstaff of NBC News, “[An e-cigarette is] a cartridge containing nicotine, flavoring and chemicals like glycerin or polyethylene glycol. Since e-cigarettes are not regulated, they often don’t list all of their ingredients.”

However, we do know there is formaldehyde in the vaporized liquid. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, a known substance capable of causing cancer in human tissue. This chemical is also in traditional cigarettes. HealthDay Reporter Dennis Thompson claims that the concentration of formaldehyde in e-cigarettes could be five to 15 times higher than in tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes mimic tobacco smoking by creating a flavored aerosol that looks and feels like tobacco smoke without containing tobacco itself. However, e-cigarettes still have nicotine, an extremely addicting chemical.

We are taking steps backwards in terms of getting youth to stop smoking. NBC News quoted Adam Leventhal of Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, “Adolescents who enjoy the experience of inhaling nicotine via e-cigarettes could be more apt to experiment with other nicotine products, including smokeable tobacco.” 

Low prices for colorful e-cigarettes and sweet flavors are also making nicotine more appealing to teens. Flavor cartridges seem expensive at $20 but last much longer than regular cigarettes. This saves vapers money in the long run. Also, the flavors make teens crave them even more. The most popular brand of e-cigarettes is Blu. They market classic tobacco, magnificent menthol, cherry crush, vivid vanilla, pina colada, peach schnapps, and carolina bold.

The New York Times quoted director of the C.D.C. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden,“This is a really bad thing,” he said of e-cigarettes. “This is another generation being hooked by the tobacco industry. It makes me angry.”

The question is, why aren’t there any national campaigns to ban e-cigarettes? There are an overwhelming number of dangers.  Anti-smoking campaigns started in the 70’s and are still alive today. They helped cut teen smoking by 45 percent.

Also, why would the state require a teen to be 18 to buy e-cigarettes if the products weren’t dangerous? Regular cigarettes and alcohol also have age requirements. This is because the ingredients in them are harmful to people if not used in moderation or if they’re used at all. The FDA hopes that at a certain age, people will be mature enough to know what they’re putting in their bodies.

Many teens that are too young to buy e-cigarettes are getting them from dealers. These dealers are 18 or older and illegally resell the e-cigarettes they get from vape shops. These shops exclusively sell e-cigarettes. Shockingly, there are seven vape shops in the Linganore area.

E-cigarette violations are occurring frequently in Maryland. According to assistant principal Andrew McWilliams, “The 2016 version of the Maryland Student Records System Manual includes e-cigarettes as tobacco violations. This was not the case in the 2008 or 2011 versions.”

Unfortunately, the FDA isn’t allowed to regulate e-cigarettes. This is something only we as the people can change. If you think e-cigarettes need to be regulated, speak up. It’s up to us to save current and future generations.