There is no denying that teenagers are using electronic cigarettes these days. In fact, public health officials worry that we are facing a new national problem as vaping is a growing trend among our youth. The most recent Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey revealed some startling changes compared to previous years. Just three years ago, 18.1 percent of teens reported using tobacco, but that number is now down to only 10.6 percent. This is a major victory for anti-smoking advocates, but the only problem is that many of those former smokers are now using ecigs. The survey found that 12.9 percent of high school students had used an ecig within the past 30 days.
State health commissioner, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, said that ecigs are definitely a problem that needs to be addressed. “I have a real sense of déjà vu about e-cigarettes,” he said. He argued that tobacco companies targeted teenagers in advertising years ago and now he worries that the flavored e-liquids are doing the same. But how do teens feel about the issue?
Kendra Roedl, a junior at Minneapolis South High School, said ecigs are definitely popular among teens at her school. She said kids like vaping because it’s easier to conceal from adults. “The vapor, it’s not as easy to smell,” she said. “Your mom won’t smell it when you get home.” She went on to say that some kids even used ecigs in the school bathroom or bleachers without being detected because there was no smell to give them away.
At nearby St. Paul Highland High School, kids are also using ecigs, but mostly because they don’t want to get near tobacco. Junior James Farnsworth said that smoking has developed a major stigma and most students think tobacco use is gross. But many view ecigs as less of a health concern and they are more likely to try vaping. “It’s not as frowned upon as people who smoke,” he said.
Despite rising numbers of teens experimenting with ecigs, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, still thinks we are headed in the right direction. He pointed out that as vaping rates go up, the smoking rates are plummeting. “At the same time that e-cigarette experimentation by Minnesota youth grew, youth usage of conventional tobacco products experienced the sharpest decline in the history of the survey,” he said.
But Ehlinger is not content to see tobacco use decrease. He also wants local teens to avoid nicotine addiction through ecigarettes. He fears that some of the eliquid flavors are enticing to teenagers and creating the biggest problem. But in reality, teens were smoking cigarettes that came in only basic tobacco and menthol flavors long before ecigs were on the scene. Kids seems to gravitate towards anything they are supposed to avoid, whether that be ecigs, tobacco, or alcohol. But just because kids are experimenting with electronic cigarettes, does that justify completely banning flavored eliquids that many adult smokers find helpful for smoking cessation?
What do you think is the appropriate way to keep teens from vaping? Is the fact that more teenagers are using ecigs concerning to you?