“E-cigs” aren’t as harmless as you might think

Just by simply walking around the Puget Sound campus, it is easy to see that electronic cigarette use is on the rise. Known as e-cigs, these cigarette alternatives are usually considered fairly inoffensive due to the light vapor that they produce and an odor much less noticeable than combustible cigarettes. Some restaurants and bars even allow them in places that are considered “non-smoking” areas.

Studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that younger generations are becoming more and more attracted to e-cigs. Their results found that more than three times as many youth used electronic cigarettes in 2013 than in 2011—a jump from 79,000 to 263,000 young people using these products.

This could be due to factors such as fun flavors and social media appealing to potential consumers. Flavors of the e-liquids that are heated and turned into vapors can come in many varieties. Consumers can buy virtually any flavor, ranging from basic options like strawberry and mint to more innovative ideas like banana nut bread and even biscotti. The immense variations possible provide an extra sense of fun in the smoking experience, enticing to both teens and young adults.

Furthermore, though perhaps to a lesser extent, one cause for the proliferation of e-cig use in younger generations could be the popularity of smoke trick videos on social media platforms, specifically Vine and YouTube.

Searching for #smoketricks on Vine will reveal hundreds of these sorts of videos that are posted each day, depicting scenes of impressive vapor feats, from blowing rings to tornadoes. These videos reel in viewers. One of the most popular of smoke trick videos is a compilation on YouTube that is only about four minutes long, but that has stacked up more than nine million views.

In my opinion, the increase in youth using electronic cigarettes is not something to be taken lightly.

Too often people think of electronic cigarettes as harmless. At the very least, it is easy to focus intently on the fact that they are better health-wise than traditional cigarettes. With the debatable issue about long-term use aside, I think it is important to stress the fact that this method still does involve nicotine, and consequently addiction.

In addition to the health risks of nicotine addiction, this can also pose a financial burden. Replacing liquids and broken pieces of e-cigarettes can eventually add up, producing a repeated expense for the user. Admittedly, this is still much less expensive than traditional smoking, but it is still something that should be considered.

Some will argue that electronic cigarettes are a great transition for those trying to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. The GfK MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer shows that the utilization of these devices is the second-most common cessation method for quitting smoking, behind quitting cold turkey. E-cigs were a more popular choice than gum or pills, meaning that the devices could potentially prove to further lower the number of people who smoke cigarettes, undoubtedly a positive effect for them to have.

However, as mentioned before, one potential downside to e-cigarettes is the sheer lack of research that has been done on them in the long-term, due to the fact that they have only been on the market a relatively short time. Unfortunately, one particular study by the CDC about this suggested that youths who use e-cigs may have an increased likelihood to smoke later in their lives. In a report published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research,  56.1 percent of youths who have smoked e-cigarettes reported they would “definitely not” smoke a cigarette in the next year, even if it was offered by a friend. Meanwhile, 78.5 percent of kids who have never used electronic cigarettes reported this response.

This evidence should serve as a warning to utilize caution when experimenting with smoking methods, in order to ensure that all smokers are aware of the potential risks and outcomes associated with different methods.

Although e-cigarettes can be a fun recreational activity or an innovative alternative to traditional cigarettes, one should exercise caution when using these devices. It is important to understand that they still carry the risks of nicotine addiction. Furthermore, it is useful to note that they can possibly lead to other methods of smoking as well as create an additional expense for the user. Until further research is conducted, it is still relatively subjective whether or not e-cigarettes are more hazard than they’re worth.