Posted on July 4, 2016 by Jana Renner
The smoking landscape has changed in the past five years. The good news is that youth smoking rates are down. The proportion of middle and high school students in the U.S. that regularly use cigarettes is below 10 percent. Years of comprehensive tobacco control prevention efforts have led to this decline in smoking rates. Cigarette marketing has been banned for decades, and many communities, like El Paso, are protected by Clean Air ordinances.
Big Tobacco has found ways to counter these decreases in smoking. The use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), more commonly known as e-cigarettes, among young people is on the rise. ENDS are battery operated devices that vaporize a liquid solution, usually containing nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavoring. The aerosol that is produced is inhaled by the user and emitted into the surrounding environment. While traditional cigarettes by youth has dropped, the proportion of high school students that regularly using e-cigarettes has risen dramatically from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015. Here in El Paso, the proportion of 9th grade students who use e-cigarettes was 22% in a 2015 survey.
The popularity of ENDS among youth can partially be attributed to marketing and the appeal of the products themselves. Through A Smoke Free Paso del Norte inititive of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, youth tobacco education programs are addressing e-cigarettes as well as monitoring the use of e-cigarettes among youth.
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule that expands its regulatory authority to ENDS devices, e-liquids, and flavorings. Under this new regulation, minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from buying ENDS products in stores or online.
Despite their growing popularity, much remains unclear about the long-term health consequences of ENDS use. Parents may be wondering if they should be concerned about these products. Here are some facts that we do know:
- ENDS are typically used to deliver vaporized nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive, and may have adverse effects on the developing adolescent brain. Nicotine use by young people is never recommended, regardless of whether it is delivered in combustible cigarettes or electronic devices.
- ENDS use could be a gateway to use of other tobacco products. The dual use of ENDS and conventional cigarettes is concerning. More than 75 percent of adolescent ENDS users, both adults and adolescents, report using both ENDS products and combustible cigarettes.
- E-liquid can contain nicotine, which can be poisonous. Much of e-liquid packaging closely resembles candy products. E-liquid containing nicotine should be kept away from children.
ENDS are also used by adult smokers as an attempt to quit smoking. Research on ENDS use and quitting is inconclusive at this time. ENDS are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cessation. Adults interested in quitting can contact the Quitline, (915) 534-QUIT, for counseling and recommended nicotine replacement products that are approved by the FDA.
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