How The Tobacco Industry Is Funding Early Addictions

The epidemic of teen vaping and use of tobacco products is on the rise, as is the importance of telling teens about the long-term effects before they happen. UPDATE: Since September 4th, the writing of this story, there are have been at least 5 e-cigarette related deaths, according to the CDC. The current cause of death is stated to be from various lung diseases due to prolonged chemical exposure form e-cigarettes.

Bariquinn Deeyaa, Writer & News Editor

We all know what they are, either because of personal experience with them, or an ad on social media. Vape pens, Juuls, Hookah, E-cigarettes, all of it. There is a myth that, compared to smoking, vaping is the ‘better’ option. The effects are both long-term, result in permanent and irreversible health issues, and affect cognitive function. Some might ask if vaping is equal, or maybe even threatening than most know , why is it becoming an epidemic?

The answer is marketing. The tobacco industry is subversively marketing to youth and the response has been beneficial for annual revenue, with the number of under 18 youth purchasing tobacco products rising dramatically. The appeal in vaping comes from the ads, stating that they’ll love the appetizing flavors. This has been the center of marketing with the tobacco industry, and the most important reason youth gravitate towards vaping so easily. Its sold as a delicious inhale of “e-juice”, but its contents are much less fun than a mango-tango flavor.  The danger lies not only in the chemicals used to flavor the tobacco, but in the fact that vape pens contain almost 5 times the nicotine per mL compared to that of a traditional cigarette, meaning they are 5 times as addictive, and it’s 5 times as hard to quit. The sleek, yet bright packaging, fun designs, and candy-like flavors are all ploys in advertising to a younger audience.

Not only tobacco marketing is to blame for the unwarranted amount of youth starting to take up the habit of vaping, even without previous exposure to nicotine and its dangers. Another answer is social media and the youth themselves. It’s very easy to see ads on Snapchat, or Instagram, of vape pens, sleek and accessible, often at a price many teens can afford. When something is constantly marketed to us, especially on social media as “fun” or an exciting experience, as well as the fact that we often see adults doing it, it seems like there’s no reason we shouldn’t. The peer pressure that it may be fun or cool, and others are doing it is the primary danger in knowing the effects only after they’ve set in.

Overland’s health teacher, Mr. Kruger, talks about the way teens and youth should be seeing vaping and smoking, as well as the way social media glorifies it.  “If you’re smoking cigarettes it’s like jumping off a 100-story building. If you’re vaping, it’s like jumping off a 30-story building. You’re still going to feel the same pain. It may not be as brutally quick, or as nasty, but the long-term effects are going to damage the body just the same. Whether it leads to cancer, toxic substances in their lungs, or toxins in your systems and or bloodstreams.” When asked the question why teens vape, he answered, “I think it’s just like any other staple, something seen as a fad or cool. I have heard from a lot of students that they post pictures of them vaping on Snapchat. It’s clearly a symbol of them being cool, even though the original purpose of vaping, was for people who need help quitting.” 

The tobacco industry is targeting and catering to a younger and younger audience, opening bad doors for many youth to be exposed, not only to tobacco and nicotine products, but to the world of drugs and addiction in general. Although it may be ‘less harmful’ than traditional cigarettes, the chemicals and exposure to nicotine still remains. Safer does not mean safe.

Here are some helpful links to get help with teen addiction, as well as more general info.