Health

Teens’ Techno Toke

Why e-cigarette use among kids is rising

“It’s almost like a toy,” said Tyler, of his e-cigarette.

The 18-year-old Washington, D.C., high school student shared this and other reasons e-cigs are so popular  among his age set and younger. “It’s also kinda fun for kids because you can get all kinds of flavors and builds of different e-cigs. They’re so popular among high school and college kids and now they have whole stores dedicated to it.”

“It’s kinda fun for kids because you can get all kinds of flavors and builds of different e-cigs.”

Another “draw” is they’re less likely to get you in trouble: “E-cigs are odorless and there is no actual smoke, so for high school kids it’s awesome because you won’t get caught,” he told LifeZette.

The good news is that regular tobacco cigarette smoke is way down among teens — while the techno toke substitute is smokin’ hot right now among the younger crowd.

A recent study from the University of Southern California found that 25 percent of teens had reported using e-cigarettes, while 20 percent reported smoking traditional cigarettes. Ten percent reported vaping within the 30 days before the survey, compared to only 6 percent who reported smoking cigarettes in the same period.

Many of those e-cigarette users — 40 percent of current users and 40 percent of past users — reported never before smoking cigarettes, Jessica Barrington-Trimis, the study’s lead author, told LifeZette. The study also found that teenagers reported e-cigarettes are socially acceptable or encouraged, she said.

Teenagers reported e-cigarettes are socially acceptable or even encouraged.

“We see that teenagers aren’t using traditional cigarettes at the same rate as in the past,” she said. “But if we look at the total amount of teenagers using, we find that more kids are using e-cigarettes and tobacco than would have just used cigarettes. Kids are using e-cigarettes instead of using nothing, which is bad.”

Barrington-Trimis said the high-tech nature of e-cigarettes likely makes vaping appealing to young users.

“It’s a novelty,” she said. “Anytime there’s a novel product, (teens) are going to try it. They’re very gadget-y.”

Tyler and his friends agree. E-cigs “have an easier pull than cigarettes so you can inhale quicker and exhale a lot of smoke. It’s fun to do tricks with the smoke.”

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E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that mimic the look of real cigarettes while delivering nicotine through a vaporizing process. Their safety or harm compared to traditional cigarettes has been debated, though some studies and proponents cite the vapor’s lower level of toxic substances as traditional cigarette smoke as an indication of their relative harmlessness.

“More kids are using e-cigarettes and tobacco than would have just used cigarettes. Kids are using e-cigarettes instead of using nothing, which is bad.”

The addictive quality of tobacco, however, remains, which makes the increased use among teens so worrisome, said Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy for the American Lung Association. And the increased use among teens points to a need for more federal regulation of the product, she added.

“The American Lung Association is very concerned and troubled that e-cigarettes among those high-schoolers and middle-schoolers has tripled in one year,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important that the Obama administration give the (Food and Drug Administration) oversight over all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”

Barrington-Trimis said while more teenagers are vaping, that use might transition to cigarettes down the road. More research is needed to better target teenagers about the risks of e-cigarettes as well as traditional cigarettes, she said.

Sward said efforts to place tighter restriction on e-cigarettes have been stymied on Capitol Hill.

“I think we need to keep the pressure on at the state and local level that the tobacco industry is still out there, still active and adding children to its deadly products every day,” she said.

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