June 11, 2018
Just five years ago, nearly three times as many U.S. high school students smoked as puffed on e-cigarettes. Today, almost twice as many secondary school kids vape as smoke, based on findings of a National Youth Tobacco Survey released by the Office of Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That amounts to one in every four high school students and more than one in every 14 middle school kids who have been hooked on nicotine by e-cigarettes, according to a report by Science News for Students. It is not a risk-free practice. In fact Irfan Rahman, a professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester in New York says that, while vape pens—including the Juuls and KandyPens that are trending with teens—are far less dangerous than conventional butts, not only will they ruin a user’s gums and loosen his or her teeth, but studies suggest that kids who vape are more likely to smoke real cigarettes in the future.
According to Rahman, “The liquid and vapor that vape users inhale (and exhale onto others) contain harmful chemicals such as anti-freeze, a host of carcinogens, and other substances known to cause cell death. Meanwhile, the concentrated nicotine in vaping solutions poses a unique, toxic threat to small children who unintentionally swallow the liquid or spill it on their skin. In a word, e-cigarettes aren’t safe for your kids and aren’t safe around your kids.”
Rahman emphasizes that even flavored vapes can be harmful to the lungs. ““Nicotine-free e-liquids have generally been considered safe; however, the impact of flavoring chemicals, especially on immune cells, has not been widely researched Even though flavoring compounds are considered safe for ingestion, it is not safe for inhalation.”
Scholarships sweeten the success of vaping
The data show that an estimated 16% of high school kids vaped in 2015. That adds up to 2.39 million teens. By comparison, just 1.37 million high school kids smoked cigarettes. And the number of vapers is increasing—partially because of a new marketing campaign launched by the companies that sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Their latest tactic: Offering college scholarships and getting students to write essays about the joys and benefits of vaping, in contrast to cigaretttes, in order to win the money.
News of the grants is spreading quickly online—posted at such websites as DaVinci Vaporizer, Slick Vapes, and SmokeTastic For example, SmokeTastic says on its site, “Under the ST Scholarship Program, we shall be awarding one scholarship award of $1000 to the winning candidate which will be determined by our judges and possibly published on our site. Our scholarship is aimed at helping all students, from all walks of life, afford the rising costs in education fees, books, and living costs. The scholarship will be made payable directly to the university/school that the winners are from by cheque.
Eligibility is no problem, the company says: “We are open to any current college-going student, including incoming freshman enrolled in any educational program to apply. We do ask however, students must be enrolled at an accredited college, university or trade school. No major or trade requirements. We have opened the scholarship up to students to apply from all countries. We do also ask that the students have a minimum GPA of 2.5.”
And under “Details of the Essay,” SmokeTastic tells students to submit an essay of 500 to 1,500 words, talking about such subjects as:
- Why do people still choose to smoke in society?
- Is vaping a new problem with younger smokers and potentially introducing them to smoking?
- Would a smoke-free world really improve society?
- What message do you have for current smokers thinking about vaping?
- Is vaping addiction a real concern?
Although some of the scholarships are limited to students 18 and older—the nation’s legal age to buy vaping products—many are open to younger teens or have no age limit.
Research contact: Irfan_rahman@urmc.rochester.edu