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E-cigs Become Popular with Students

According to a 2014 survey performed by National Institute on Drug Abuse, within one month, 13.6 percent of high school seniors said they had smoked a cigarette. During the same time, 17.4 IMG_5154crop_web-copypercent said they had used an electronic cigarette, or e-cig. In the past few years, more and more teens and adults have begun using e-cigs. At the same time, fewer and fewer teens and adults are smoking traditional cigarettes.

Opinions on e-cigarettes are strongly divided. Many believe they are just as, if not more dangerous, than traditional cigarettes. MTV has been running a campaign to end teen smoking and believes that e-cigarettes are a step backwards.

“Currently, only about 8 percent of teens smoke on a regular basis,” Crystal Barnes, an MTV representative said. “That’s down 23 percent from just 15 years ago. It just doesn’t make sense to have more kids smoking, even if it is an e-cigarette.”

Still, others believe they achieve just the opposite, that e-cigarettes allow individuals to quit smoking in favor of vaping. Many believe that e-cigarettes work much like a nicotine patch or nicotine gum, allowing for a smoker to receive nicotine without the harmful effects of the tobacco and carcinogens in cigarettes.

“Vaping has helped in a major way to decrease the use of cigarettes,” Daniel Redeffer, an employee of the St. Louis Vaporstore said. “A lot of smokers, a lot of older smokers who have smoked for many many years, who have tried over-the-counter nicotine supplements or who have gone to their doctors and have been prescribed medications to no avail are now vaping. I see a lot of customers above 50 who have been smoking for 30 to 40 years and it’s helped them quite a lot.”

E-cigarettes are fairly simple devices. They generally come in one of three varieties: cigalikes, which look as much like a traditional cigarette as possible, eGo-T’s, larger, and generally with a removable and refillable cartridge or tank, and modular e-cigarettes, or mods, which are much larger and more customizable.

On the base of the cigarette is the cartridge, where the flavoring, propylene glycol, and other chemicals are. Above that is the atomizer, which heats the

liquid, which is attached to the tip, and a rechargeable battery. When the user inhales, the battery and atomizer meet, and the atomizer heats up and evaporates the liquid, creating the vapor.

Individually few, if any, of the chemicals used in e-cigarettes are inherently dangerous or harmful in their liquid form. For many, problems begin to arise when the chemicals are heated and inhaled.

“When you heat a liquid, it can change the chemical makeup of that liquid and other chemicals can form like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein which are then inhaled,” pulmonologist Avrum Spira said. “The question that plagues many is whether or not those chemicals harmful.”

In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA the power to regulate the sale and advertisement of tobacco products. The act allowed the FDA to curb the advertisement of tobacco products, and to require larger and more severe warning labels be posted on tobacco products. Technically, e-cigarettes have no tobacco in them, stunting many attempts at government regulation, and excluding e-cigarettes from many other measures, such as sin taxes, taxes which are placed on items considered harmful, such as tobacco or alcohol.

As it stands now, there are eight states in the U.S. that allow for minors to purchase e-cigarettes. In October, Missouri became the 41st state to outlaw their sale to minors. Missouri’s law is different from many other states’ as it explicitly forbids the regulation or taxation of e-cigarettes as tobacco products, precluding most forms of further regulation the government may have tried to impose.

“E-cigarettes don’t have anything to do with cigarettes, they don’t have anything to do with tobacco,” Redeffer said. “There’s no tobacco in any of the liquids and you’re not burning anything; you use a heating element to heat up and then vaporize the liquids. People are equating vaping and smoking a cigarette but they’re not the same.”

Generally speaking, people support age restrictions on the purchase and use of e-cigarettes but governmental organizations often run into problems when trying to enforce more stringent measures.

Because of the inability and lack of governmental regulation over e-cigarettes, many believe they cater too much to minors, with different flavors to choose from as well as the ability to advertise to youth. As such, they believe e-cigarettes encourage minors to begin smoking where traditional cigarettes would otherwise not.

For the most part, individuals tend to believe there are far fewer health risks associated with e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, approximately 15 percent of 8th graders thought the regular use of e-cigarettes was harmful to their health as compared to 62 percent who believed smoking traditional cigarettes would be harmful.

In comparison to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes have been around, let alone been popular, for a very short time. Many of their impacts, as well as the extent of their use, have yet to be measured. What can be said for sure is that e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular, and that they are, whether or not they are safer, different than cigarettes.

“If teens start out by using e-cigarettes and then graduate to the real thing then that’s not helping anyone,”  Barnes said. “At the same time, a lot of people have found great success in quitting smoking by using e-cigarettes, when they’re used appropriately. But the fact is, the technology is just too new to know what kind of long term effects e-cigarettes are going to have.”

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