Tobacco Use in Students is on the Rise

Article at a glance:

  • A survey of Utah students in grades 8, 10, and 12 showed the percentage of teens who tried e-cigarettes rose to 12 percent.
  • The long-term effects of e-cigarettes have not been studied and there is no proof that they are safe.
  • E-cigarettes may pave the way for a more serious addiction to cigarettes.

Between 2011 and 2013, a survey of Utah students in grades 8, 10, and 12 showed the percentage of teens who tried e-cigarettes rose to 12 percent with almost 6 percent using them on a regular basis. Nearly a third of those who tried e-cigarettes had never tried conventional cigarettes. At the same time, usage among adults in Utah doubled to almost 5 percent.

Fast-forward to 2017, and an updated study concluded that the percentage of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 that have tried e-cigarettes rose to 23.1%!

This staggering increase in the use of tobacco products amongst students has lead to several recent changes in regulation and legislation. So what is being done? And What else should we be doing?

About E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes (also called vape pens or hookah pens) are small battery-powdered vaporizers that are made to simulate smoking. They work by turning an “e-liquid” into a vapor that is then inhaled like you would cigarette smoke, which is why it is often called vaping. The liquid usually includes nicotine and is sold in a variety of candy-like flavors.

Are E-Cigarettes Safe?

Marketing for e-cigarettes claim that they are a safe alternative to cigarettes because they don’t expose the user or others to the dangerous chemicals and cancer-causing agents found in tobacco.

But the long-term effects of e-cigarettes have not been studied and there is no proof that they are safe.

Studies are already finding that e-cigarettes can cause inflammation in the lungs and carry a high level of toxins. Although the additives used to flavor the vapor are often food grade, some can be dangerous when inhaled. There is also evidence that shows that e-cigarettes can create carcinogens.

Parents need to be aware of some of the risks associated with e-cigarettes and should take the time to talk to their children about them.

Nicotine Is a Serious Addiction

Although you can buy e-liquid without nicotine, most is sold with varying levels of it. Nicotine is a notoriously hard habit to kick. Picking up a habit like this before you even graduate from high school means a lifelong struggle with a potent addiction. It is not something that should be taken lightly.

Nicotine is not only addictive, but it has some dangerous side effects. Besides raising your blood pressure and heart rate, it can negatively affect developing brains. Overtime it can cause heart disease, stomach ulcers, and blood clots. In fact, nicotine is used as a pesticide and one drop of pure nicotine can kill an adult. Not really something you want in your body.

New Laws and Regulations

On Dec. 20, 2019, the President signed legislation raising the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years – making it illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product—including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes—to anyone under 21.

The FDA began regulating the manufacture, advertising, sale, and distribution of e-cigarettes in 2016.

Still, a report in 2019 concluded that out of 19,000 US students surveyed, over 27% of high school students and over 10% of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use. Applying that sample to the US population of students, it is estimated that over 5 million U.S. middle and high school students are current e-cigarette users.

As a response to this data, the FDA announced policy changes in January of 2020 banning unauthorized flavored e-cigarette cartridges. So called flavored “e-liquid” has been largely thought to be a major cause of student and young adult tobacco use.

E-Cigarettes May Pave the Way For A More Serious Addiction To Cigarettes

Many teens may believe that e-cigarettes are an innocent habit, but in reality it could be the gateway to a much more serious addiction.

In fact, a recent study by Boston University School of Public Health found that teens who have never smoked tobacco cigarettes but used e-cigarettes were twice as likely to have intentions of smoking later.

E-Cigarette and E-Liquid Safety

Any nicotine/tobacco product inhaled into the lungs is inherently not that safe, but for those who wish to look past that there are a few precautions that should be taken.

1. Always wear gloves to protect your skin from spills.

2. Store it locked up and away from children and pets.

3. After using it, make sure the container is sealed tightly.

4. Dispose of it according to the instructions on the package.

If you or somebody else has been exposed to liquid nicotine, call the poison control center right away at 1-800-222-1222.

For adults who are already addicted to smoking, e-cigarettes are being marketed as a way to kick the habit. But whether or not they are effective is still up for debate.

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