26 March 2019
Vaping: A Guide for the Underaged
Fad trends are a major aspect of teenage culture. However, these trends have come to include an insidious force known as vaping. Vaping is a term used to describe the inhaling of the vaporous products produced by any type of e-cigarette (Richter). Since the industry’s birth in 2003, the usage of e-cigarettes has grown more popular, sparking attention especially amongst teens. Much like cigarettes were once a popular trend, vape products are now recognized as nothing more than a fad; the truth is, both cigarettes and their modern counterparts carry an unacknowledged contract that ensnares will-be addicted teens. Although the FDA has taken counteractive action through informative campaigns focused on highlighting the risks of vaping in order to prevent the further spreading of this drug dependence, teens need to be guided to realize that vapes are not a substance that simply dissipates once its trend dies.
Nowadays, vaping is a term that youth are all too familiar with. This is in part due to the e-cigarette industry’s specifically targeting a younger, underaged audience with tactics such as colorful/appealing packaging, sweet scents, and a generally more addictive product (Blankley). In 2018, The National Cancer Institute shared the results of a trial study focused on the comparative levels of nicotine in a single JUUL pod in relation to that of a cigarette. The group had discovered that “The median concentration of cotinine, a molecule that is formed during the breakdown of nicotine, in the participants’ urine samples was more than 50% higher than the urinary cotinine levels reported in a previous study of youth tobacco smoking” (“Vaping Pods Produces High Nicotine Levels in Young Users”). Nicotine is recognized as the substance that makes cigarettes so addictive and destructive. Now, a single vape pen pod has a drastically increased nicotine concentration than that of a cigarette, thus heightening the chemical’s effects, too. As the vaping industry has grown, its substance and marketing tactics have changed as well. The epitome of the industry is JUUL, which occupies about 73% of the e-cigarette market (Couronne). Within that company lies the sleek, subtle, and modern JUUL vape pen, which has even been adjusted to charge in computer USB ports, thus making it all the more accessible and attractive. The pens are small enough to hide in a pocket and do not produce vapor like other vape pens do, making vaping far easier to hide and use than it would have been with another drug substance, such as LSD. Not only are JUULs purposefully designed to fit modern taste, but they have been advertised in sources such as Vice Magazine, which targets a teenage audience (Chaykowski). JUUL, a company that dominates the majority of the vaping industry, has been effectively marketing to underaged audiences ever since its initial launch in 2015, and thus translates to a majority of the vaping industry being targeted towards an underaged audience (Chaykowski). Judging off of how successful JUUL’s product and name is, there may very well be room for a safe assumption that a decent amount of the company’s revenue is from an underaged audience (that supposedly does not exist, according to the company). The FDA has campaigned against companies such as JUUL through programs like “The Real Cost,” which are anti-vaporizer advertisements that serve to try to educate and warn potential underaged users (Bowden). Although these programs, such as the FDA’s advertisement campaign, help to combat the vaping industry, it still can not fully overpower e-cigarette business’ influence on teens.
To combat the growing issue of underaged vaping, the FDA has set in motion counteractive measures focusing on the harsh realities that come with vaping. The FDA’s chief prevention program, “The Real Cost,” had originally focused itself on preventing underaged cigarette smoking before soon refocusing on e-cigarettes, due the drug’s rampant presence. Beginning in 2014 and continuing on to today, “The Real Cost” is tactfully placed “… where teens spend most of their time—online and in school” (“The Real Cost Campaign”). However, the FDA is aware that this campaign has only done so much to decrease teen vaping rates. In fact, the CDC marked that the underaged vaping population has increased by 78% as of November, 2018 (Cullen, et. al). This massive jump means that the vaping industry has taken a stronger hold on teens than it ever has, growing to become a true epidemic. In previous years, the FDA’s marking underaged useage of e-cigarettes as an epidemic was scoffed at and seen as blown out of proportion, but now it has become a reality. The FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, has come to recognize this and has grown more direct about pushing back against the vaping industry. In late 2018, the FDA warned companies such as JUUL that there will be penalty for continuing to subliminally market to minors through sweet-flavored products and extensive advertising (Blankley). But, considering the skyrocketing numbers recorded that November, even the FDA’s threats have not done enough to phase the vaping issue. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has realized that it would take something more to weaken these companies, and thus revealed to want a much more direct attack on the industry to combat youth vaping addiction–while speaking at a public hearing, Gottlieb stated that “If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat” (Bowden). With this outright attack on e-cigarette companies, the FDA has made America aware that its original campaigns have not done enough to persuade teens away from the temptation of vaping. Although prevention programs, such as “The Real Cost,” give some leeway towards decreasing underaged e-cigarette useage, the issue of youth nicotine addiction has become far more serious than expected. The FDA, alongside its counteractive campaigns, has taken a bold step towards confronting the nationwide vaping problem by directly threatening to pull the plug on the e-cigarette industry as a whole.
In order to help the FDA in preventing vape addiction in teens, youth should be taught to recognize that vaporizers are a legitimate drug and not just a fad. Greta Frontero, an 18-year-old writer for her school paper, shares her insights on how her classmates had reacted towards reports of vaping causing lung cancer: “A few weeks ago there was a whole thing going around that it caused lung cancer. And for probably, like, a day people were like, ‘I’m going to stop doing it!’ …And then that quickly faded. I don’t think anyone’s all that concerned” (Barshad). Initially, Frontero’s student peers feared that vaping did hold some serious implications; however, the reality of the vape’s true nature was quickly drowned out by the phenomenon of its appealing trend. If teens could come to see that JUULs, and vaping products in general, are legitimate drugs and not simply a plaything, then they would ideally realize that the choice to vape holds a much greater weight in consequence than that of a typical trend. For example, introducing nicotine into the adolescent growing brain stunts memory retention and leads to problems with one’s behavior (Barrington-Trimis, Leventhal). Although the FDA has come to the forefront of counteractive campaigning, there is an aspect in which the organization simply cannot reach with informative ads alone. That aspect, one which is more deeply rooted in the teenaged individual, is the pressure to follow trend. If the idea of vaping being nothing more than a trend can be changed to accurately represent the reality of these legitimate drugs, then this understanding can help to change the minds of the many youth that have chosen to pursue this massive trend. In a sense, this widespread vaping issue reflects that of its predecessor, the cigarette. Throughout the mid-to-late 1900’s, kids were encouraged to smoke cigarettes because, due to no one really knowing or caring about the implications of smoking, smoking was seen as a harmless trend. However, although vaping is viewed in a similar, nonchalant sense now, modern society is better equipped to handle and counter the harmful effects of vapes. A sense of trusting union and honesty can be formed through former drug addict talks, open discussions, or awareness on social media–the idea is that teens will come to see how insidious the vaping trend is. Yet, the best means to reach this audience is through the same means that JUUL and other vaping companies do, and that is through social media ads. In order to promote awareness of the risks of vaping, more straightforward and blunt social media statements are needed in order to get the intended message across, due to how frequently used and easily accessible these apps and websites are. Therefore, by changing the perspective on e-cigarettes from a lighthearted fad to an addictive substance, teens will recognize that making the choice to vape is weighed with the much heavier consequence of one’s future against that of temporal peer approval, and thus be more likely to stop the addiction before it can even start.
Overall, teenage audiences need to be educated in what vaping truly is and understand that the consequences do not simply die out when the trend does. The vaping industry has made subtle, yet effective, strides towards marketing a large aspect of its product to an underage audience; the FDA has come to recognize and openly criticize this abuse of power, directly threatening the industry with consequences for its duplicitous and ruthless manipulation of the youth. However, despite the fact that the FDA is trying to help combat the influence that the vaping industry holds over teens, the issue of miscommunication and ignorance amongst teens is an even greater negative influence that leads to the decision to vape. To combat this, teens must be personally made aware of the fact that, although a popular trend now, the effects that vaping has on the body are permanent, regardless of the individual. Weakening, and eventually ending, this trend mindset towards vaping is crucial in maintaining both the lives and well-beings of youth who have fallen victim to drug addiction through the vape industry. Much like the cigarette has been phased out of popularity by the knowledge of its great risk, maybe someday the e-cigarette will follow suit and transform itself into a trend that is centered around fighting the drug addiction, rather than inspiring it.
Barrington-Trimis, Jessica L., and Leventhal, Adam M. “Adolescents’ Use of “Pod Mod” E-Cigarettes — Urgent Concerns.” The New England Journal of Medicine vol. 379, 2018, pp. 1099-1012. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1805758. Accessed 27 March 2019.
Barshad, Amos. “The Juul Is Too Cool.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/07/style/the-juul-is-too-cool.html. Accessed 20 March 2019.
Blankley, Bethany. “Could FDA Crackdown on Vaping Flavors Jeopardize the Industry?” Watchdog, Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, 5 Dec. 2018, www.watchdog.org/national/could-fda-crackdown-on-vaping-flavors-jeopardize-the-industry/article_cebb8e18-f800-11e8-993e-67554e2f426c.html. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.
Bowden, John. “FDA Threatens to Pull e-Cigarettes off the Market.” The Hill, The Hill, 19 Jan. 2019, thehill.com/policy/healthcare/426140-fda-threatens-to-pull-e-cigarettes-off-the-market-citing-possible. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.
Chaykowski, Kathleen. “The Disturbing Focus Of Juul’s Early Marketing Campaigns.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 Nov. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2018/11/16/the-disturbing-focus-of-juuls-early-marketing-campaigns/#688f38ac14f9. Accessed 23 Feb. 2019.
Couronne, Ivan. “JUUL: e-Cigarette Dominates the Market-and Fears of Parents.” Medical Xpress – Medical Research Advances and Health News, Medical Xpress, 3 Oct. 2018, medicalxpress.com/news/2018-10-juul-e-cigarette-dominates-marketand-parents.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2019.
Cullen, Karen A., et. al. “Notes from the Field: Use of Electronic Cigarettes and Any Tobacco Product Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2018.” CDC: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) vol. 67 ver. 45, 2018, pp., 1276-1277. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6745a5.htm?s_cid=mm6745a5_w. Accessed 27 March 2019.
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Richter, Linda. “What Is Vaping?” Expert Views: E-Cigarettes, Center on Addiction, 1 Oct. 2018, www.centeronaddiction.org/e-cigarettes/recreational-vaping/what-vaping. Accessed 27 March 2019.
“Vaping Pods Produce High Nicotine Levels in Young Users.” National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 5 Oct. 2018, www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2018/youth-vaping-high-nicotine-levels. Accessed Feb. 6 2019.