Written By: Isabella Zimmermann
A brief trip to the bathroom. A quick hit under the protection of a desk. A variety of flavors ranging from gummy worm to mango that so plainly seem to be targeted to the youth of America. At this rate, e-cigarette use among teenagers is becoming a widespread epidemic in high schools across the country.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of high-schoolers using e-cigarettes has increased by 78 percent since last year. Millions of high schoolers in the United States alone have been reported to regularly vape. But such a problem has not gone unnoticed, as the FDA has retaliated by restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in most retail stores and by planning their next attack–banning menthol-flavored e-cigarettes. This has led to the company Juul to stop selling its widely popular mango flavor, which has caused significant outrage from many consumers. But are these plans really justifiable?
Yes; the issue of vaping has rapidly increased in the past year, with the number of youths using e-cigarettes nearly exceeding the number of older users. But younger people should not be smoking at all–individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed to purchase tobacco products in the first place.
However, e-cigarette flavors seem to be especially geared towards attracting a younger demographic, with flavors such as cotton candy, bubblegum, and fruit, which are appealing flavors for teenagers and middle-schoolers alike to get hooked on. These flavors generate more sales among youths, as the thought of smoking something flavored like candy is much greater than one of smoking something bitter or without any flavor at all.
It may seem like a bore to repeatedly hear the same warnings such as “e-cigarettes contain nicotine!” but the fact is that they are highly addictive, as the chemicals in these products make it harder to quit smoking the more they are used. Addiction is also plain to see when teenagers have to have a hit during school hours to deal with their cravings or when students report no longer being able to feel a “buzz” due to their constant and regular smoking habits. It is a shock when I walk into a bathroom and see people taking hits or see them so boldly take out their smoking devices during class or lunch. Personally, it is extremely disheartening to see so many of my friends and other students be so consumed with their growing nicotine addictions, despite the incessant number of warnings that the people around them give them.
“Being addicted to nicotine at the age of 16 should not be cool or acceptable. It may be all fun and games at first, but long-term lung problems are not,” said sophomore Leandra Hall.
E-cigs are not only aided by the abundance of flavors targeting high schoolers but also with the peer pressure that accompanies it. There are instances where people will offer you their vape pens; if you refuse, you will be met with a strange look or even beration. Some high schoolers even feel obligated to smoke just to “fit in.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to potentially worse drugs or other tobacco products. One study even showed that “students who had used e-cigarettes by the time they started 9th grade were more likely than others to start smoking cigarettes and other smokable tobacco products within the next year.” At this point, it is impossible to simply ignore the matter, especially when the health of millions of the younger generation are being negatively impacted by poor decision-making–but only because there are not enough restrictions in the first place.
It seems that the only way to stop this epidemic from spreading to even more students is to regulate the sales of such flavors and devices and setting up stricter guidelines in schools to prevent vaping within school property. With the FDA setting up harsher regulations to prevent vaping, perhaps peer pressure, addiction, and misuse of products originally made for recovering adult smokers will hopefully grind to a halt.