Have you noticed how rarely you see people walking around smoking traditional cigarettes these days? It recently dawned on me how few smokers I see anymore, but before getting too excited I need to mention that the rise in e-cigarette users has probably increased in direct proportion to the decrease in cigarette smoking. This is especially troubling as it applies to the number of kids I see at my practice who openly discuss their usage of e-cig’s, as many of these kids are high achievers in school and sports, upstanding citizens, and from solid families. The new trend of electronic cigarette usage is most definitely in full swing, and it’s directly impacting kids in towns across America at an alarming rate.
Why are we seeing an uptick in e-cigs with kids?
Juul e-cigarettes come in different flavors, making them especially appealing to kids. The taste of these products also invites a false sense of security that they are harmless, when in fact they pose the very same dangers of nicotine addiction as traditional cigarettes. There’s also a “coolness” factor I have observed at my practice, particularly with the delivery pen devices. Additionally, the ease of use has been mentioned by many of my clients, as the fast, discrete vape-hit from a pen is a lot easier than having to bundle up to go out in the cold weather to enjoy a traditional cigarette. While all of these reasons certainly add to the likelihood why e-cig usage is up, you might be surprised to learn that we are currently witnessing an onslaught of subtle, intentionally manufactured new-wave marketing efforts that are driving the e-cig movement to new levels — specifically, I am talking about companies like Juul paying social media influencers to write, speak, and create videos about how cool e-cigarettes are to use. No, kids haven’t just come to enjoy e-cigs on their own, but many have instead been mislead into thinking the trend is more widespread than it actually is, and this movement is being driven by seemingly real people who appear to be simply interested in blogging about their favorite e-cigs.
While it may make fiscal sense for companies like Juul to get kids hooked on nicotine, the ethics of hiring everyday people to appear to be simply speaking on their own (without compensation) to endorse e-cigarettes is unethical, and potentially dangerous. And sadly, many kids easily fall victim into these questionable advertising practices.
Pay attention, your kid could be using right now
Users of e-cigarettes today don’t fit a specific personality type, nor do they come from a particular socioeconomic background. In fact, the kids I see at my practice who admit to using almost always come from backgrounds that might surprise you. They are, largely, kids who excel in the classroom (and sports), are active in their communities, and aside from using e-cigarettes often don’t have any other bad habits and/or illegal activities to report. My point is they are everyday kids, the kind of kids you probably have under your roof.
Because of the ease and discreteness of using e-cigarettes, it’s not very difficult to conceal a growing habit increasingly more kids are feeding. Unlike the old days of tangible evidence that a kid was smoking (i.e. dried tobacco remnants in pockets, cigarette smoke smell, lighters, etc), kids today often use so quickly and secretly that most parents have no idea there is a problem — until it’s too late. Sadly, nicotine addiction doesn’t take long, and a number of the kids I see are already hooked. Parents, therefore, are encouraged to tune in, ask questions, pay attention to their intuition, and immediately step in when there is evidence that e-cigarette usage is occurring.
Kids today are using e-cigarettes at a disturbing rate, and the means in which they are marketed to is disturbing. E-cigs have taken the place of traditional cigarettes, primarily because of their ease of use, coolness factor, and false belief they are relatively safe. For these reasons it’s important for parents to talk openly about the dangers of e-cigarettes, as well as step in immediately when warning signs arise.