When I was young I remember going to the Riverside drug store and buying candy with my girlfriend Missy. I am sure I purchased a box or two of the “candy cigarettes” and after I tasted them I am fairly certain I didn’t buy any more. They were gross. What is sad is that those candy boxes likely encouraged some kids to step it up and actually try real cigarettes. What may have started as harmless candy could have been the trigger to a dangerous habit. Although you cannot find the candy cigarettes at your local drug store, you can find something just as dangerous to children in your neighborhood…e cigarettes.
What are E-Cigarettes? According to the all knowing Wikipedia these seemingly silly devices are actually “[a]n electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette), personal vaporizer(PV), or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) is an electronic inhaler meant to simulate and substitute for tobacco smoking. It generally utilizes a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution. Some release nicotine, while some merely release flavored vapor. They are often designed to mimic traditional smoking implements, such as cigarettes or cigars, in their use and/or appearance.” They are battery powered devices and even come with chargers for the wall and the car and are currently being pimped by big name celebrities like Stephen Dorf.
These electronic sticks are being marketed not only to adults but also to minors, intentionally or not. According to the CDC, experimentation with e-cigarettes in high school students doubled in 2011 to 10%. In addition, the use of e-cigarettes amongst middle school students doubled. Reportedly high schoolers use both the paper cigarettes and e-cigs, but middle school students are more likely to try the electronic version over the paper ones.
These devices are becoming more known and accessible but we have yet to understand if the long term effects are the same or similar to paper cigarettes. Although the e-cigs supposedly do not have the harmful chemicals (other than nicotine) contained in its paper cousins, it still contains nicotine and are not yet regulated by any government agency. This means that one cartridge might have more nicotine than another cartridge and there is no way of telling this. Granted, the e-cigs might be healthier in the sense that they do not contain the additional harmful chemicals but they are not healthy by any stretch of the imagination.
Philip Morris and its parent company, Altria, has released comments that it will not sell these to children. I hope this is true whether we are talking about the ones containing nicotine or the just the flavored vapor ones.
To be fair, there are e-cigs that are flavored vapor releasing only, with no nicotine. Although they do not contain nicotine, they could be the trigger to start a young person down the dangerous path of cigarette use. As such, parents should be aware of what these are and talk to their children, including tweens and teens, about them. More states are banning the sale of e-cigs to minors and seeking to tax the devices or extend indoor restrictions to them which is great; yet for right now this is not enough and parents need to be aware of the issue and discuss it with their children – I know I will.