How Smoking Is Becoming "Cool" Again & Why We Have to Stop It
E-cigarettes began as a way to wean smokers off tobacco. But a new study among teens suggests a scary implication: E-cigs are now appealing to non-smokers, as well. In a survey of over 2,000 California high school juniors and seniors, researchers from the University of Southern California discovered that over 40 percent of teen e-cigarette smokers have never smoked traditional cigarettes.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey reports a nearly 9 percent increase in the number of high school students using e-cigarettes from 2013-2014, more than enough to stifle the 3.5 percent decrease in teen cigarette use, as recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While 9 percent may not sound like a ton, in context, the amount of middle and high school students using e-cigs has actually tripled.
How, despite decades of anti-smoking advocacy efforts, have e-cigarettes gained such massive popularity in such a short time?
Scientists say that the “renormalization” of teen smoking may not be entirely self-inflicted. The USC study found that 34 percent of adolescent e-smokers are exposed to electronic cigarettes via a member of their family or friend groups.
Unethical advertising schemes also drive e-cigs' quest for cool. E-cigarettes are marketed as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, and teens are buying the message. In a recent study in North Carolina, high schoolers easily rattled off a list of the dangers of smoking tobacco, but when asked to do the same with regard to e-cigarettes, the teens were unsure whether the devices could be considered safe. Some weren’t even aware that e-cigs contain nicotine.
But e-cigarettes DO contain nicotine, which lead study author Jessica Barrington-Trimis claims may induce a psychological dependency that could lead to future cigarette use. The substance is highly addictive, which is why some consider e-cigarettes a gateway drug.
If preaching the dangers of tobacco helped make cigarettes uncool, we can do the same to demolish e-cigarettes. Emphasize the dangers of electronic smoking devices to your teen, and be sure to monitor the risk factors that may lead to their first puff.