Kids these days with their underbutt and their twerking and their chapsnat, what a world! And now the youths can't get enough of those magical robot cigarettes that don't actually soil the air with any noxious smoke! A new survey from the CDC shows that e-cig use by middle and high school students doubled in 2012 over the previous year.
As Chris Robbins explained in our definitive feature on e-cigs earlier this year, "E-cigarettes use atomizers powered by rechargeable or disposable lithium batteries to heat up liquid nicotine without combustion. Users inhale that nicotine, along with water, flavorings, and a chemical used in fog machine juice (among other household products), without ingesting the smoke that contains toxic, carcinogenic ingredients the tobacco industry spent decades and billions of dollars denying (then admitting) killed you."
Because e-cigs are still unregulated by the FDA, America's children can puff on them to their lungs' content. The general consensus in the health care community is that e-cigs are clearly less harmful than cigarettes, but a lot more research needs to be done to examine the long-term effects of the chemicals in e-cig vapor.
And Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, believes that e-cigs could become a gateway into cigarette addiction. In an interview with the Times, Frieden argued that "the adolescent brain is more susceptible to nicotine, and that the trend of rising use could hook young people who might then move into more harmful products like conventional cigarettes." But if kids can't trust Vapey the Happy E-Cig Whale, who can they trust?
E-cigs also come in flavors like chocolate and "cherry crush" that youths find irresistible, and they're being marketed with celebrity endorsements from pop icons like Jenny McCarthy and... Courtney Love. Industry insiders insist that their advertising doesn't target youths, so insert your own GIF of Joe Camel rolling his eyes right out of his phallic, cartoon head.
In 2012, an estimated 160,000 students who reported using e-cigarettes had never used conventional cigarettes, according to the CDC report. And one in five middle school students who admitted they'd tried e-cigs also said they'd never smoked an actual cigarette. So once they're inevitably addicted to nicotine, it's not hard to imagine them firing up an old-fashioned Lucky Strike when their e-cig battery dies.
Gregory Conley, an attorney and legislative director for The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, a group that promotes the use of e-cigs, is obviously skeptical of the survey. He says the problem is that the CDC didn't ask students if they were using e-cigs on a daily basis. So how do we know they weren't just experimenting once or twice? In an email, Conley writes:
Three habit descriptors are typically surveyed when asking about tobacco or drug use -- ever use, past 30 day use, and daily use. In the context of addictive products like nicotine, it is daily use that is clearly correlated with youth continuing to use these products rather than just experimenting a few times.
Curiously, the CDC failed to report data on daily use of e-cigarettes by youth, presumably because daily use is so rare that it would not support their false narrative that smoke-free nicotine products are equally addictive and just as harmful as smoking, as well as target marketed to children.
Conley calls e-cigs "one of the most significant public health innovations of the past half-century" but his group also supports restrictions on e-cig sales to minors. And Murray S. Kessler, who runs the company that owns Blu eCigs, agrees, telling the Times the rise in youth usage is “unacceptable,” and that he's “looking forward to a regulatory framework that restricts youth access” but does not “stifle what may be the most significant harm reduction opportunity that has ever been made available to smokers."
But regulation, shmegulation, there's no keeping trendy new gadgets away from these crazy kids. Life moves pretty fast. Soon enough most of these kids will be grown-up cyborgs dressed in denim thongs raising e-cigs to our dying lips in off-world Hospices. Unless e-cigs become self-aware and kill us all before then.