A middle-aged man passed away in St. Louis from a lung illness tied to vaping last week. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this is the 8th confirmed death tied to e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, the CDC only expects this number to rise.
Electronic cigarettes or “E-cigarettes” are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale a liquid heated into an aerosol that typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, among other chemicals. The process of using an e-cigarette is referred to as “vaping”.
Recently the government and several large retailers have started to question the safety and practices of e-cigarettes. It is time for schools to join the chorus.
Schools need to start talking to students about vaping for a couple of reasons:
E-cigarettes are not the “safe” cigarette people believe
E-cigarettes marketed themselves as “safe” cigarettes. Whether they are “safer” than traditional cigarettes or not, at this point, most experts believe they are not really “safe”. It’s not even clear if they are safer than regular cigarettes as vaping is relatively new, so there are few if any longitudinal studies to examine the effects.
E-cigarettes are just as addictive as regular cigarettes
The addictive ingredient in e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is the same. Nicotine the highly addictive ingredient in traditional cigarettes is also found in vapes, sometimes at even higher levels.
Vaping is marketed to kids
E-cigarette companies dispute this but search any of the vaping hashtags on social media and see who is using the hashtag. Some of the biggest e-cigarette influencers are under 18 themselves and are quite literally sponsored by vaping companies. The tactic is working as the number of teens vaping recently hit a record high.
As rates of traditional smoking have declined many school districts have let their foot off the gas when it comes to education about smoking, which is somewhat understandable. However, this is the worst possible time to do that.
Congress is holding a hearing on vaping related illnesses. Walmart has decided to stop selling the product in the US altogether. If a company that until very recently sold ammunition for assault weapons thinks we need to take a closer look at e-cigarettes, then we probably do.
Just like in the case of traditional cigarettes, this isn’t to say people can’t vape or it should be illegal. People can and will do whatever they want, but there is a lot of misinformation around these products and if “big vape” won’t educate their consumers, it is up to schools.