Guest Blogger: Hannah Morris of Auburn, Alabama
I am only a junior in high school, but almost everyday I see girls vaping in the school bathroom or students passing e-cigarettes around in class behind the teachers' backs.
Many of my friends are addicted to vaping.
They spend most of their money on pods or juice; purchasing these products from a vape store in Auburn that is known to sell to minors. Last week, my friend Julie and I wanted to see what all of our peers were doing and if this store would really sell to minors.
When we walked in, we noticed two students from our school with vape juice in their hands. Immediately a young worker greeted us to show us around the store. She showed us several kinds of vapes and e-cigarettes along with colorful, flavored vape juices, such as bubble gum, pink lemonade, cotton candy and other things that teens seem to enjoy. They even had decorative stickers for the e-cigarettes. It was very shocking to me that they had all of these things in the store and that it was clear they were marketing towards minors. I have seen many of my peers use these products and have never seen adults purchase these items.
I am concerned about my friends vaping, as I have seen friends become addicted to the nicotine in vapes. One friend in particular, who runs track, owns five vapes. He recently noticed the affect to his lungs and tried to quit. He, like most teens, started using vapes and e-cigarettes because it was “the thing” to do.
That's why I'm glad the American Heart Association is working to raise the minimum legal sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to 21.
I personally believe vapes and e-cigarettes are dangerous. I definitely believe that stores should not be selling them to teens. I believe if the legal age to buy these products were 21 and if there were stricter laws on the stores that sell them to teens, it would be more difficult for teens to purchase them.
Evidence shows that nicotine dependence and smoking intensity are strongly correlated with younger ages of smoking initiation. In other words, the younger people are when they smoke their first cigarette, the more likely they will be a smoker for life. The tobacco industry has historically zeroed in on children with the marketing of flavored/sweet cigarettes and placing advertisements at a low height to be more easily seen by children. The industry also has recently begun heavily marketing e-cigarettes to children. From 2011 to 2014, the percentage of 12th-grade students who had ever used an e-cigarette increased from 4.7 to 17.2 percent. For the first time, more teenagers are using e-cigarettes than smoking cigarettes.
Have you seen how smoking e-cigarettes impacts someone's health?
If so, comment below and help change the legal sale age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21! Maybe you're a teen who is also concerned about their friends who vape. Or, maybe you're a parent, an educator, or a medical professional who sees how smoking impacts teens' health. It will take all of our stories, and us coming together in one voice, to make a difference in Alabama.