Hi everyone, Hannah here! This month, I wanted to chat with you about something we are all seeing in the headlines – vaping and teens. Specifically, vape “juice” flavors (funny how the industry refers to the chemicals they use to create these flavors as “juice” – makes it sound like it’s healthy doesn’t it?) and how they are used to attract teens to e-cigarettes.
This epidemic is one that I, personally, come into contact with every single day. I witness my peers using e-cigarettes and a myriad of these chemical flavors every day. Just a peek into the life of a nicotine-addicted teenager will give you insight into just how harmful vape liquids can be, and how often they are deemed “safe.” A little more about that later in my blog.
Flavors makes things fun and interesting. Like those crazy flavors of Harry Potter jelly beans, you just have to try them and find out what all the talk is about. Flavors of vape liquid such as: cinnamon, vanilla, mint, lemonade and berry are extremely popular among teens. Unfortunately, many of my peers say, “How can something that tastes so good, be bad for me?” According to the American Heart Association, flavors are more likely to motivate young adults 18-24 than those over age 35 to start vaping, a finding that researchers suggest could explain some of the explosive increase in e-cigarette use among youth.
These companies think if they can make teenagers believe these flavors are fun, safe and taste good – remember – they even call them “juice” - then they can profit from us. Well, what they are doing is working! These companies know we can become addicted and use their products for more than just a experimental thing on a Saturday night – it’s part of the game, a game where they make lots of money and teens become addicted. A survey of adults (aged 18 and older) who use electronic cigarettes found flavors attracted many to start using e-cigarettes (even those who had not smoked cigarettes before) and supported their continued use. Tobacco companies make vape flavors seem safe for use because we are still waiting on the FDA to regulate these products. Why are we okay with putting these substances into our bodies when we do not know exactly what they contain? No one is telling users (specifically teens) exactly what is in the products. The absence of info makes teenagers think, “Well, vaping can’t be that bad or someone would be telling us.”
In my day-to-day life, I see high school students using Juul, and other e-cigarettes, and lots of different flavors. I often wonder what is so appealing to my peers about the different flavors. Just in the past week, I have seen countless students vaping in the bathrooms and around their vehicles on school property. Unlike traditional cigarettes, it’s so common among teens and discreet to use, no one really notices.
Recently, I sat down with a fellow student-athlete to ask him about his experiences with vaping. This classmate is on the varsity football team and has to stay in phenomenal shape to keep up with the other players.
When I asked him why he started to vape, he said, “My older brother bought me a Juul in the tenth grade, and I have been vaping ever since.” This answer is extremely common, even around my small high school. Although the minimum sales age for tobacco has been raised to 21 in my state, there are still some adults who buy these products, only to sell them to younger kids. You guys, quit buying this stuff for teens! I asked another student a similar question, “What flavors of vape liquids are you using and why?” She said, “I use the mint flavor because I don’t have to taste the tobacco flavor.” These students are fellow high school students and feel safer using flavored tobacco opposed to the original. A lot of times, I feel that students use these flavors to mask what they are truly doing to their bodies. They think, if it tastes good, then it can’t be that bad.
Nevertheless, I realize if I were addicted to nicotine and being told these delicious flavors were safe for me, I could be in their shoes. The question remains, “How do we decrease the use of vapes and vape liquids by teens and young adults?” Well, we educate them. My job, as a leader in my school and community, is to educate everyone around me about the horrific effects of these flavored liquids. YOU can do the exact same, educate yourself on the ingredients of all tobacco products – including in e-cigarette liquids and spread the word! You may feel as though you can’t make a difference, but, YOU CAN. Join me in spreading the truth about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and all other tobacco related products! Also, Got Twitter? Well, you can take action right now to help get these flavored products removed from the market - Wouldn't that be fabulous! Take action HERE.
Today, I challenge each of you to join me and get involved with the lifesaving advocacy work of the American Heart Association. To add your voice simply CLICK HERE. It only takes a few moments, and you will be a part of a powerful movement to save lives. Already involved? Share this blog with a friend and invite them to join us!
Thank you all for reading! I hope that you have learned a little more about just how impactful vaping products truly are. See you next month!
Hannah Walker, AHA Advocate & Guest Blogger