A woman in a red beret vaping behind a gate

E-cigarettes Aren’t Solving the Smoking Epidemic; They’re Replacing It

They were supposed to be the solution to the smoking epidemic. But are they actually making the problem worse?
December 2, 2022
7 mins read

Tobacco smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the United States, and it can lead to a variety of health problems such as cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke. It also has significant economic consequences, including increased government spending due to increased health-care utilization and cost, deterioration in overall health and increased absenteeism from work. The tobacco industry is one of the largest in the world, and it spends billions of dollars each year to market and advertise tobacco products such as cigarettes, effectively counteracting efforts to reduce the prevalence of smoking and tobacco use. Although state tobacco prevention programs exist to prevent smoking and assist smokers in quitting, they can’t match the amount of money tobacco companies spend on advertising. Reports show that states spend $1 for every $11 that these companies spend on marketing their products.

As the public’s awareness of the health consequences of smoking increased, tobacco use dropped dramatically. In an attempt to reclaim lost income, tobacco companies had to get smarter; they had to market a new type of product. Electronic cigarettes, also known as vapes or e-cigs, are heating devices that contain solvents, nicotine, flavors (such as diacetyl), and heavy metals like nickel or lead. The user “vapes,” or inhales the vapor produced by the heating process. E-cigs were introduced in Europe in 2006 and in the United States in 2007, and their popularity has grown rapidly since. E-cigarettes are frequently marketed as a less harmful alternative to traditional smoking, especially among smokers looking to quit. However, there isn’t enough research to back up these claims or to explain how they help users quit. These manufacturing companies also lack transparency, as they do not specify exactly how these products can help users quit smoking. Additionally, despite being marketed as safer alternatives to smoking tobacco, some of the flavored refill liquids used in these devices have been shown to contain higher levels of particulate matter than tobacco smoke.

For many years, public health officials struggled to find effective ways to reduce smoking in the general population. Some of these methods were successful, as the number of smokers fell from 20.9% in 2005 to 12.5% by 2020. These findings indicate that more people are quitting smoking and fewer are starting. However, with the introduction of e-cigarettes, it appears that smoking is once again becoming an epidemic. According to an October 2022 survey, approximately 2.5 million adolescents used e-cigarettes, an increase from 2.1 million in 2021. Furthermore, the age at which young people first started using e-cigarettes decreased. Despite the fact that selling e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 is illegal, many middle and high school students vape on a regular basis.

Due to their marketing and sales techniques, e-cigarette manufacturer, Juul has been the target of lawsuits after investigations revealed that they purposefully targeted young people with their products. Some of these methods include providing free samples, social media campaigns, launch parties, using young-looking models in advertising campaigns, and using flavors that would appeal to younger users, such as bubblegum, chocolate, vanilla, mint and candy. The executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, in an interview with ABC News, agreed that the marketing strategies of these companies are detrimental to young people, stating that, “While millions of our adult consumers rely on our regulated nicotine-containing vapor products to quit cigarettes, and they should not be denied access to this better alternative, we believe it is imperative to limit access and appeal of all tobacco products to youth.”

Even if these products might aid in the cessation of smoking, they make it easier for users to consume nicotine when they are already struggling with nicotine addiction. The products are small and discreet, cheaper than cigarettes and can be used anywhere. What’s more, because vaping is typically allowed indoors, there is no need to excuse yourself to go to a designated smoking area.

There are numerous risks associated with using e-cigarettes, ranging from minor (mouth dryness, gum disease, and irritation) to more serious long-term effects (nicotine addiction, seizures, strokes, heart attacks and potentially fatal lung injury). The acronym EVALI stands for E-cigarette or Vaping product use-associated Lung Injury. The substances inhaled during vaping cause an inflammatory response in the lungs. Because it is still a new disease, its course is unpredictable and research on its causes and treatment is still underway.

The introduction of e-cigarettes has inadvertently led to an increase in nicotine product consumption, which has been detrimental to the ongoing efforts to eliminate smoking in the general population. It is now quite common to see young people smoking these products, particularly on high school or college campuses and at social gatherings. Because e-cigs are marketed to a younger demographic, people are being introduced to smoking at a younger age, increasing their likelihood of picking up traditional smoking later in life. Additionally, chronic exposure to nicotine has noxious effects on the development of adolescent and young adult brains. The e-cig epidemic not only jeopardizes the fight against tobacco, but also contributes to the establishment of a dangerous habit that may affect future generations. More efforts are required to combat it, such as raising public awareness of the potential risks of these products, as well as implementing practices and actions to discourage e-cigarette use among new users.

Azeezah Ibraheem, Near East University

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Azeezah Ibraheem

Near East University

Hi! My name’s Azeezah and I love sunsets, books and the ocean.

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