Big Tobacco Successfully Increasing E-Cigarette Use In Youths
Don’t fool yourself: smoking electronic cigarettes is still smoking. The tobacco industry has positioned e-cigs as a less dangerous form of smoking than traditional, combustable cigarettes. However, “less dangerous” still contains the word “dangerous.”
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 allowed the FDA to restrict the sales and marketing of tobacco products to youths including proof of identification to purchase, limiting color and design in packaging, etc. However, that was prior to the popularity of e-cigs. So in April of 2014, the FDA sought to close that loophole and include in the Act similar products like electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah, and more.
Studies have shown that use of e-cigs by youths leads to an increasing likelihood of smoking traditional cigarettes. And it may not be very helpful to those trying to kick the habit altogether.
“Use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among US adolescents,” according to Lauren M. Dutra, ScD; Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, authors of a study in JAMA Pediatrics.
The causal relationship between traditional and electronic cigarettes is not entirely understood. Which comes first? Does one lead to, encourage, or compliment the other? Researchers are unsure.
But it is known that electronic cigarettes are, like the old fashioned combustable kind, still a form of delivering nicotine. Hence the phrase “less dangerous” instead of something like “safe.” In fact, as the industry matures, more information shows that e-cigs may not be much less dangerous.
“More powerful e-cigarettes, commonly known as tank systems, heat nicotine liquid hot enough to produce cancer-causing carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, in their vapor,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, JD and Aliza Y. Glasner, JD of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “In addition, the virulence of drug-resistant bacteria can be increased by e-cigarette vapors and affect the ability of cells to destroy bacteria,” they wrote in a JAMA editorial.
But industry, particularly the tobacco lobby, often prevails in the U.S. The comment period for the inclusion of e-cigs to the 2009 Tobacco Act ended in July and the FDA will most likely side with the industry by saying there is not yet conclusive evidence of danger and therefore these products should not be included.
“By contrast, in February 2014, the European Union issued a Tobacco Products Directive to safeguard youth, including bans on advertising, promoting taste, and nicotine flavorings for e-cigarettes,” said Gostin and Glasner. “Other countries, including Brazil, Lebanon, and Singapore, have banned e-cigarettes entirely.”
The use of electronic cigarettes between 2011 and 2012 doubled to more than 10 percent of youths. And that didn’t even include the use of other popular products like e-hookahs, hookah pens, and vape pipes.
According to Gostin and Glasner, there is “a major risk that e-cigarettes will revive the popular smoking culture that has taken decades to dismantle.”
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