The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study, has found that the use of electronic cigarettes has doubled among students enrolled in middle and high schools in the US. The study revealed that 1.78 million students admitted using the electronic device from which 160,000 had never experimented with tobacco cigarettes.
The carcinogens and other toxic chemicals in electronic cigarettes are far less than those in tobacco cigarettes. However, the CDC is concerned about the adverse impact of nicotine contained in e-cigarettes on the brain development in adolescents. Some research links e-cigarettes with an increased incidence of cancer. Dr Mark Siegel speaking on Fox News stated that regulation of the $1.7 billion, rapidly growing e-cigarette industry by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was the need of the hour.
According to Fox news, e-cigarettes are easily available to minors even in the 12 states, including New York, California and Colorado, which have laws preventing minors from accessing the vapour devices. Minors get them through online purchases or use their parent’s devices. The report goes on to point out that ninety percent of smokers begin their tryst with smoking in their teens and therefore, some definitive action is required.
According to public health advocates students are being lured to e-smoking through flashy advertising and attractive flavourings like bubble gum, chocolate chip cookies, bubble gum and Atomic Fireball’.
American Lung Association’s, vice president for national advocacy, Erika Sward feels that the marketing efforts are targeting kids and the data vindicates their concerns in this respect.
In spite of all this criticism, it would not be right to continue berating e-cigarettes as they still are a safer alternative to tobacco smoking and have little or no impact on the people in close proximity of users. It has enabled several Americans to give up the smoking habit. A study published in the Lancet, a British medical journal, suggests that they may be as effective as nicotine patches. Winsor Mann in USA Today, stresses that while they may not be nutritious’ they are no big deal either.
The use of e-cigarettes among the students may be due to the inherent, natural curiosity among the youth to try out new things. Even presidential candidates boast of their use of illegal substances which is invariable robustly applauded by audiences. It is nothing unusual for kids to use their freedom to do things which may put them at risk. It is the prerogative of the parents to guide them to act as responsibly as possible.
The time appears ripe for the FDA to get going, using its powers to gather all the available information and to take informed decisions in exercising its oversight this product. In the meanwhile, additional research will throw more light on how addictive electronic cigarettes really are and on their efficacy as smoking cessation aids.
Nicotine addiction is a vice which no one should fall prey to and its use in any form should not be encouraged. However, if the FDA can help more smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, without more students taking to smoking, it would be benefit both, the smokers and the society, greatly.