The tobacco industry is ramping and amping up its marketing of vaping as a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking.
Don’t believe the hype.Vaping products are essentially battery-operated cigarettes — many sporting cool colors and themes popular with youth — that skip the leafy form of tobacco and allow users to get their buzz from an oily concoction of nicotine concentrate that is masked by fruity-and candy-flavored chemicals making the drug’s consumption more palatable. Not all liquids sold for e-cigarette devices contain nicotine — but prevention and addiction-treatment experts say those are just the starter products that usher young people to form the habit.
Though vaping devices and products can be sold legally only to those 18 and older, they have become increasingly popular among underage teens. A 2014 Monitoring The Future survey found 17 percent of U.S. high school seniors used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days compared to 14 percent reporting tobacco cigarette use. Vaping use tripled in 2014, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. According to IFLScience, vaping devices are projected to outsell conventional cigarettes by 2023.
The liquid users draw into their lungs and brain is not made of harmless materials. The flavoring and propylene glycol are made of artificial chemicals that, when heated and inhaled, can irritate the lungs just like tobacco smoke and cause bronchitis or inflame pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma. When heated, the liquid also can produce formaldehyde, a colorless gas the human body recognizes as a toxin — sometimes at higher levels than even tobacco cigarettes. Heated e-liquids also can create heavy metals users inhale.
Most e-liquids on the market contain nicotine, and there are no federal regulations requiring manufacturers to label how much nicotine is in each container. Aside from being addictive, research has shown that nicotine has damaging impacts on the developing brain, which continues until about age 25. There is no federal law requiring manufacturers to explain that on sales packaging, either.
For many parents, vaping devices may sound like an ideal way to get youth to quit using tobacco cigarettes. However, there is no scientific evidence that a transition to vaping leads to tobacco cessation. Dr. David Samadi wrote for the New York Daily News he is concerned that while some allege vaping may help youth quit tobacco and nicotine altogether, e-cigarettes are also attracting a number of new teen users who have may been turned off by regular cigarettes.
“What I can say definitively is that nicotine is harmful to the developing teenage brain,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “No teenager, no young person, should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing products.”
The electronic devices themselves pose the risk of serious, life-threatening injuries. In Castle Rock, Colo., 17-year-old Marcus Forzani and his father are speaking out to warn users away from vaping as Marcus recovers from second-and-third-degree burns after a vaporizer battery exploded in his pants pocket last month.
“You don`t want to be in these shoes of where my son is,” Michael Forzani told Fox31 Denver. “It’s a painful and long process. Do not flirt with it.”
As Fox31 also reported:
Lying in a hospital bed, Marcus is doing his best to remain positive.
“Seeing your whole leg pussed out and all black, it doesn’t make you feel too good about yourself,” he said.
Covered in bandages, Marcus is recovering from second- and third-degree burns to his left leg and hand.
“The whole left side of my thigh to about halfway down my calf,” he said.
On Thursday, Marcus’ leg was charred black and blistering over after he said a vaporizer battery exploded in his pocket while at school.
“Bell rang, stood up to get my jacket, which was on the other side of the classroom, five steps within that sparks started flying out of my pocket,” Marcus said of the accident. “It literally looked like someone was welding in my pocket.”
Taken to the Burn and Reconstruction Center of Colorado at Swedish Medical Center to recover, Marcus is not alone in his injuries, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Tanya Oswald said.
“These injuries can be devastating. He sustained full thickness burn injuries. … In the past six months, we’ve seen an increase in the number of burn patients as well as dramatic injury patients in relation to electronic cigarettes and battery-operated vapor devices,” Oswald said.