Electronic cigarettes are the latest vice that is turning into a two-edged sword — probably as beneficial for some as it is detrimental to others.
When e-cigarettes burst on the scene several years ago, they were touted as a way to possibly wean smokers off their nicotine addiction, or at least give them a safer delivery mechanism for the legal drug — kind of like nicotine gum or nicotine patches.
Problem is, though, that kids have gotten turned onto them, too. And businesses doing what businesses do, when they see a potentially huge market for their product, they exploit it. The manufacturers of e-cigarettes — some of which also make the old-fashioned kind — have introduced flavors to make them more palatable to young people, even though e-cigarettes are not supposed to be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
Hooking kids onto nicotine has been a long-term strategy of traditional cigarettes and now e-cigarettes. The makers know that if they don’t get people to start smoking when they are young, the odds are that they will never pick up the habit.
It is stunning and alarming how fast e-cigarette usage is growing. One brand, Juul, was only introduced in 2015. It now controls an estimated 70 percent of the U.S. market. It does a lot of its advertising on Instagram and other social media channels that are particularly popular with young people.
Researchers don’t know yet what the long-term health repercussions are from e-cigarettes, but nicotine, no matter how it’s delivered, is bad for developing brains. It’s also feared that e-cigarettes are a gateway to the real thing and its multiple carcinogens. Kids also have found another use for the battery-powered devices that vaporize nicotine. They’re using them to smoke marijuana.
All of this points to the need for much stricter regulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration has given the largest manufacturers of e-cigarettes 60 days to produce plans to stop underage use of their products.
Don’t count on those plans being sincere. If these companies really were not going after the youth market, they would have never introduced flavorings.