HomeNews EventsNewsYouth smoking is a problem, so is youth vaping

Youth smoking is a problem, so is youth vaping

04 Mar 2019

Debates on e-cigarettes often focus on the potential harms or benefits of vaping versus smoking. Dr Yvette van der Eijk, Senior Research Fellow, and Assistant Professor Lee Jeong Kyu are more concerned about the industry’s preying on youth.

As e-cigarettes are newly developed products, it is hard to assess their harms and make fair conclusions about their long-term health impact. Based on the body of research, we can meanwhile assume that e-cigarettes containing nicotine are addictive, much like regular cigarettes, and that vaping is not safe, but safer than smoking. But to say something is ‘safer than smoking’ does not say much, added Dr van der Eijk and Dr Lee, since the odds of dying from a smoking-related disease are more than one in two.

Due to the addictiveness and unknown health risk of e-cigarettes, a sensible policy should, at the minimum, prevent youths from using them.

Tobacco companies, which own most of the e-cigarette market, have a well-documented history of preying on youth. Leaked internal industry documents from the 1970s reveal that tobacco companies intentionally target youths as they are more vulnerable to addiction, and more impressionable.

Sold as sleek devices, e-cigarettes are designed to appeal to the younger generation, coming in flavours such as mint, mango and crème brulee. Research studies have shown that flavours of vapour solutions are especially appealing to young people.

Advertising campaigns for e-cigarettes also feature attractive young models and associate the brand with having fun, freedom, relationships and sex appeal.

“The advertising platforms are changing, but the industry’s target remains the same. The gadgets are evolving, but the nicotine remains the same,” wrote Dr van der Eijk and Dr Lee.

“Whether they vape or smoke, the tobacco industry’s goal is simple: To create loyal customers. And to do that, they must hook the younger generations onto nicotine.”

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