A Dangerous Trend Among Teens and Tweens: E-Cigarettes

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E-cigarette usage has become a trend.

Do not mistake or confuse them with smokeless cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery powered cigarettes designed to release a nicotine vapor that looks like smoke. Though originally touted as a better option to smoking without the same carcinogens from smoking tobacco, there are now concerns regarding the chemicals ingredients and potential effects of inhalation from e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes (also called personal vaporizers [PV], electronic nicotine delivery system [ENDS], digital vapor devices, and vape pens) are battery or USB powered devices that simulate tobacco smoking. They each have a small heater which vaporizes a liquid mixture of nicotine and flavorings.

E-cigarette revenue is expected to surpass $2 billion this year.

Education on the negative health effects of smoking have been a standard part of middle and high school health curricula and public health campaigns for decades. This is not the case for e-cigarettes.

Though safer than traditional cigarettes (cf. study by Arian Saffari), users still get hooked on nicotine at an early age. Many teens and tweens also try smoking traditional cigarettes after vaping e-cigarettes.

An Alarming Study Underscores Urgent Need for Obama Administration to Finalize Oversight of E-Cigarettes and Other Unregulated Tobacco Products by End of 2014:

“The number of youth who have used e-cigarettes, but have never used conventional cigarettes increased from 79,000 in 2011 to 263,000 in 2013. Among those surveyed, the study found 43.9 percent “intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year.” This is compared to only 21.5 percent who said they intended to smoke a cigarette but had never used an e-cigarette.”

According to the American Lung Association, “Every day, almost 3,900 children under 18 years of age try their first cigarette, and more than 950 of them will become new, regular daily smokers. Half of them will ultimately die from their habit.”

In a study published on June 2, 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers found that teens’ awareness and viewing of e-cigarettes advertisements has dramatically increased between 2011 and 2013. These ads have reached an audience estimated at 24 million teens.

Since 1998 tight federal regulations have kept tobacco companies from specifically targeting teens and tweens with advertising. This is not the case for e-cigarettes, which unfortunately, has a huge youth market.

Despite the lack of federal regulation, a majority of states are recognizing and taking action against the potential threat to teen consumers. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors has been banned in at least 39 states, but they are still easy to purchase online.

Marketing strategy for reaching the tweens and teens target:

  1. Yummy flavors: e-cigarettes come in all sorts of fruit, candy and dessert flavors.
  2. Bright, fun designs: some come in bright colors.
  3. USB chargers or batteries: teens see them as another electronic gadget.
  4. Social media campaigns are doing a good job promoting e-cigarette usage : look up #Vapelife on Instagram and see how much fun these youngsters are having using e-cigarettes. They play and do tricks with the smoke.
  5. Celebrity endorsements
  6. Ads appear to make smoking e-cigarettes an act of rebellion, a clear grab for teens.

This is clearly a topic that parents and educators must address and talk about with their teens and tweens. Always use the same strategy : don’t try to scare them. This never works. Don’t try to marginalize the trend; that would be making it appear even more attractive. It is better to be calm and factual.

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