Written collaboratively by Hope Kleine and Kylie Serie.
The use of e-cigarettes, more commonly known as vaping, is a trend that continues to rise in America. Vaping is particularly popular among middle and high school students as well as young adults. Other names for these deadly tools include e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, and juuls. These battery-operated devices are not risk-free and are highly addictive. They can harm brain development in adolescents, lead to future addictions, and increase the risk of developing lung issues.1 It is more important now than ever before to take a stance against Big Tobacco and educate youth on the real impacts of vaping.
Contrary to what most young adults and adolescents may believe, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless water vapor. The devices work by heating liquid and converting it to an aerosol. The user will then inhale nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals.2 The aerosols have been found to contain heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. The flavorings such as diacetyl have been linked to serious lung disease. Even if the aerosol states that it is nicotine free, they most likely contain some amounts of nicotine.1-2
Nicotine poses a real threat to youth. Nicotine is highly addictive and can potentially harm a developing adolescent brain. The brain continues to develop until around age 25. The areas of the brain that are associated with attention, learning, mood, and impulse control are the areas that nicotine targets.1 Lastly, when e-cigarette batteries are defective, they have caused explosions and fires. Children and adults have also been poisoned from the liquid of the e-cigarette through swallowing, breathing, or absorbing it through their skin or eyes.1 Even with the many potential harms that come with using e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco continues to increase their marketing to lure in potential consumers.
The tobacco industry spends $9.4 billion per year on advertising in the US alone. $26.4 million of those dollars are used to market the products in South Dakota.3 Although tobacco billboards are banned, companies have found other areas for marketing their products. A study done in July 2000 showed that advertising and promotions for the use of tobacco products have increased in retail outlets and convenience stores.4
E-cigarettes have taken a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook when it comes to marketing. They target users by having celebrity spokespeople, using glamourous women and rugged men, sponsoring sports and music festivals, using cartoons, and making their products in sweet and popular flavors. It’s time to educate youth and current users on the real impacts of tobacco products as well as teach them about the marketing ticks Big Tobacco uses.
What can youth do to protect themselves from Big Tobacco? They can start by educating themselves and others on the true harm of using their products. They can learn about the harmful effects of nicotine and the other chemicals used in e-cigarettes, vapes, juuls, and any other brand they know about. Youth can also get involved in advocating for tobacco-free properties. Lastly, they can share reliable sources to spread awareness about e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. It is more important now than ever before to take a stance against Big Tobacco and spread the truth about e-cigarettes.
For parents, educators, and health care providers:
- Centers for Disease control and Prevention. Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults. (n.d).
- U.S. Surgeon General. Know the Risks: E-cigarettes & Young People. U.S. Surgeon General’s Report. (n.d.)
- South Dakota. (2019, March 15).
- Bach, L. (2019, March 7) Big Surprise: Tobacco Company Prevention Campaigns Don’t Work. [PDF file].