In the early 20th century, cigarettes were casually and recreationally used as props in television and film, advertised with no restraints and disregarded as harmful to smokers. Cigarettes were shipped to soldiers in both World Wars, women were targeted as audiences for advertisements which suggested Lucky Strike brand cigarettes as an alternative to dieting and 50 percent of physicians were found to be daily smokers, prompting 1940s advertisements like Camel’s, “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette.” This habit went unbothered for years until then Surgeon General Luther Terry, held a press conference in 1964 and made a bold announcement, smoking cigarettes was bad for you, and the government should take action. What followed were years of research, fighting to reign in the tobacco industry and promoting a healthier lifestyle to American consumers.
It worked, though. By 2017, 14 percent (14 of every 100) of the adult population were smokers, a decrease from 20 percent in 2005, according to the CDC. Hopes were high, as the decline from 2005 to 2017 was consistent with a national decline in smoking over several decades of data keeping. However, the rise in popularity of electronic cigarettes has dwindled hope of a national abandonment of nicotine addiction. Now, a new generation of smokers are being sought after by e-cig manufacturer.
Electronic cigarettes have been promoted as an alternative to cigarettes, but also as a cultural phenomenon which has reached not only the 18+ market, and also kids as young as middle school. According the Truth Initiative, the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 11.7 percent of high schoolers and 3.3 percent of middle schoolers had used e-cigs within the last 30 days. These statistics are startling when compared to 2011’s report which showed that only 1.5 percent of high school and 0.6 percent of middle school students had reported current use. The marketing of e-cigs has been overwhelmingly targeted at the younger population, regardless of warnings and requests from the Food and Drug Administration. Seven out of ten teenagers are exposed to e-cig advertisements, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with the message that vaping is safer than smoking. These marketing tactics have caused lead e-cig distributor, Juul, to receive warning from the FDA for not complying and proving these claims are true.
The vapor aspect of the e-cigs uses heated liquid vapor instead of the traditional direct burning of tobacco leaves. The vapor consists of nicotine or THC mixed with solvents or oils, which dissolve and deliver the drugs. The solvents then become the vapor during the heating process required for aerosolization to become vapor. The oil then can be left over as the heated liquid begins to cool down, causing the user to inhale the oil itself which can be dangerous and possibly deadly to your lungs, according to Thomas Eissenberg, who researches vaping at Virginia Commonwealth University
According to the New York Times, severe lung illness from vaping has caused four deaths, and has affected possibly 450 people across 33 states. The mysterious illness that the CDC has described as “severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products” is developing in e-cig users likely through chemical exposure in the liquids, refills, pods and cartridges used to vape. Symptoms of the illness are mostly afflicting people in their late teens and early twenties, prime targets for the e-cig market. Symptoms include days of vomiting, fever and fatigue, which have resulted in hundreds of hospitalizations across the country. Patients are also experiencing severe shortness of breath, according to the New York Times. The problem is that there is so much unknown about various e-cig products, so prevention, or ultimately treatment is difficult to advise. Many patients with the lung illness have a hard time tracing their purchases of refillable pods and cartridges back to the original sources because there is such a large secondary market
Berry is a drug free campus, so smoking of any sort is not permitted. However, the small size of e-cigs makes them easy to hide. I’ve seen more than one puffs of smoke emerging from a crowd at a late-night, or for the more emboldened, on the sidewalk heading to class. While these alternatives to traditional cigarettes feel less threatening and more recreational, the dangers of what we don’t know about them should be enough to warrant quitting. Until the government can enforce more regulation and deliver more understanding on the dangers of the products, let’s all use common sense and refrain from using them.