Cigarettes have a long history in the U.S., dating back to the 1700s, and with the recent introduction of the “e” variety, they appear to have an even longer future ahead. Chemicals found in the product have a reputation for being one of the most addictive substances legally sold today, and one of the easier age-restricted substances young people have access to regardless of what laws have been put in place to regulate them. Tobacco Free Kids reports that 90 percent of all adult smokers start when they are in their teens, and that 85.8 percent of youth smokers between the ages of 12 and 17 even have brand preferences, listing Marlboro, Camel and Newport among their top three choices. Not coincidentally, those are also the top three most heavily advertised and marketed brands. With the evolution of cigarettes to now include the electronic vapor line, and the campaigning designed to target a younger demographic, it is likely that these numbers will continue to rise. With the number of users rising, it follows necessarily that the figures will include underage consumers as well.
E-cigarettes were introduced under the banner of being “healthier” than the traditional paper, tobacco and filter alternative. Claims associated with the new and allegedly less toxic and less addictive option have included: less addictive chemical output, less waste, and no smoke. Not to mention the fresh packaging and colorful options. However, researchers are claiming that some of these claims might actually be true. Web MD suggests that though they do not know exactly how harmful the long-term risks associated with the product are, they currently seem to be less harmful and addictive than traditional smokes and their ingredients. Questions surrounding how harmful the product is or is not, though many are still unanswered, seem to have little to do with its availability to youth not to mention any sanctions put on the distributing and advertising of said products to minors. Until research confirms that the product is not harmful and includes no addictive chemicals, many organizations claim that the availability to minors should remain zero. This, however, is far from the case.
E-cigarettes are being offered in different color containers as well as a variety of fruit and other flavors. A Wall Street Journal story lists Graham Cracker, Chocolate Chip and Cookie Dough among available flavors that public health officials allege can be used to lure kids and teens to buy, use and become addicted to the product, thus ensuring their future purchases of e-cigarette products. Tactics such as these have been tried and true by other products meant to catch the eye and dollars of kids and teens. This line of marketing coupled with the fact that e-cigarettes have only recently begun to feel the effects of the 18 and over purchase restrictions mean availability to minors and consumption has been generous to date.
Based on what is known about the safety and effects of e-cigarettes to date, officials recommend the product should be approached with the same caution associated with traditional paper and tobacco variety. Though electronic versions of smoking are trading some of the dangers for what they claim are “lesser evils,” there is still reason to be wary, especially when it comes to kids and teens. While the newest option available to smokers may have evolved past actual smoke, Science News reports that e-cigarettes, though being marketed to a younger demographic and new generation of smokers as being a safer option to regular tobacco based options, still allow the user to ingest a combination of poisonous chemicals including carcinogens, the long-term effects of which are still being investigated.
By Heather Everett (Pomper)