17 December 2018
It is hard to see how only 15 years ago, the first successful electronic cigarette would start a revolution in not only adult around the globe, but get in the hands of many teenagers. This device was credited to Herbert A. Gilbert who had patented the first of what we know as the e-cig in 1965. At this time, this machine wasn't even considered a prototype as its lack of nicotine and function to be like a cigarette. 38 years after Herbert first invention, the first public successful electronic cigarette had reached the public in Beijing, China. Hon Lik was a 52-year-old pharmacist and inventor who was responsible for creating the Ruyan, later renamed “Ruyan” and sold to the public through his employer “Golden Dragon Holdings.” And finally on August 22, 2006, electronic smoking products like the “Ruyan” were introduced to the U.S.
A former branch of “PAX Labs” as of 2017, “Juul” has caught the attention of the media with its slim design and compact size as the new wave of electronic smoking. This Hard Drive size machine comes in a variety of flavors ranging from classic flavors like tobacco and mint to mango and “fruit” which are the more popular flavors in teens. Juul's mission statement is to “Improve the lives of the world's one billion adult smokers” but has been seen in the spotlight of the vaping epidemic in minors. Teens have a variety of different reasons to “Juul” (a word coined by the users to describe the action of Juuling) and in a article by “WBUR,” it states that “One reason Juul and vape pens are so popular among teens currently might be that they can be used indoors without attracting unwanted attention or creating a stench.” Another reason that teens could start using these products is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that seven out of ten teens say that they have been exposed to some sort of ads for these electronic cigarettes and Juuls.
This popular wave of “vaping” and “Juuling” has gained more recent attention with its use in schools by students. Instead of doing this illegal activity outside of school, students have been caught using it in the bathroom and stalls, in hallways and even backs of classrooms. This is not only happening to our school and the many schools in our state, but it has created a nationwide epidemic. It has generated a problem with the once-advertised “smoking-substitute” to now find a solution to stop this illegal activity in minors.
According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, 3.62 million teens across the country are current users of e-cigarettes in 2018. These numbers have drastically increased since 2017. “E-cigarette use, from 2017 to 2018, increased 78 percent among high school students (11.7% to 20.8%) and 48 percent among middle school students (3.3% to 4.9%) from 2017 to 2018.” (FDA.gov). The FDA has very responsibly taken note of these numbers and has been more involved with their Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan which launched in 2017. This plan's job is to cut back on marketing e-cigarettes towards teens, preventing access to these products and teaching teens about the long-term effects of using a Juul or e-cig. In September of 2018, The FDA sent out letters and fines to more than 1,300 retailers for illegally selling e-cig products to minors. They are also requiring “Juul Labs” and other companies such as Vuse and Blu, to “submit important documents to better understand the reportedly high rates of youth use and the particular youth appeal of their products.” (FDA.gov). These companies have to show how they are going to address this problem or face the re-examination of their flavored products.
One of the main factors why kids are so drawn into this activity is the flavors that e-cigarettes offer. With all the multitude of exotic flavors ranging from “Candy Crush” vape juice to “Mango” or “Fruit” Juul pods, These sweet flavors are what makes them seem harmless. The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that 66.0 percent of teens who have tried or currently use vapes say that it is just flavoring which is immensely false. The titles were advertised as foods and sweets but the FDA has now banned these flavor titles. One of the FDA's missions is to fix the titles and advertising of these flavors because it is what draws teens in to try it. They have sent out 12 letters and fines for false advertising to multiple online companies for their misleading titles to try and stop the “trendy names.” This immense number of teens who lack the knowledge of what they are putting in their bodies is blamed on the advertising of these products.
What makes all Juuls and vapes so dangerous is the addictive chemical nicotine. Nicotine is the main stimulant found in both e-cigs and cigarettes because of its increase in dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that makes you feel good when you do things you enjoy. Your current levels of dopamine are increased when nicotine is put in your system, making you feel happy. The effects of nicotine are what can make you addicted and once nicotine is in your body enough, it is a very hard drug to quit. (NIDA for Teens) This is what medical professional fear when it comes to vaping and “Juuling.” Adolescents are more vulnerable to the effects of nicotine than adults found in a study shown in US National Library of Medicine, adults rats that were given nicotine when they were in adolescents were able to get a fuller effect when they were adults compared to adults rats that had never had the drug.
With the FDA's several attempts to stop this crisis, many of the problems are out of the control of the FDA and the retailers. The Truth Initiative, an organization that is educating the teens of the dangers in electronic smoking, states that 74 percent of 12-17 years olds buy e-cigs from retail stores and 52 percent get it from someone they know. (The teens were allowed to pick more than one answer.) (The Truth Initiative) Teens who receive an e-cig from someone old enough to buy one is what is making the process to stop this epidemic so challenging. There is no way of stopping someone from giving teens an e-cigarette unless they are caught which is making it harder for companies to even be successful when selling their products. The FDA is also stuck because they cannot control what schools do to prevent the use of E-cigs. Many schools can punish students differently and take different actions to stop this crisis. Many schools have taken it upon themselves to install “vape detectors” that can tell if students are using a vape in the bathroom to have teachers that monitor bathroom use. Although there are a plethora of different ways adults can help cut back on vaping, the problem is never going to go away.
In New Hampshire, the legal age to purchase cigarettes and e-cigarettes is 18. Most states throughout the United States also have the same law except for California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, and Maine. Some cities and towns from each state may also be different than the rest of the state. In New Hampshire, Dover is the only town where you have to be over 21 to buy nicotine products. The reasons for the age limit is that some people believe at 18, your brain is not fully developed and you will still receive the same effects as you did at adolescence.
As a country, New Hampshire was one of the first states to decline the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18. “Breathe NH” and the New Hampshire Youth Network helped pass this law in 2010 (House Bill 1541). In our state, “23.8% of high school age youth report having used electronic vapor products (e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, vaping pens, or e-hookah) on at least one day during the 30 days before the survey” and “37.5% of New Hampshire 12th grade males report using tobacco products” (The New Hampshire Department of Health Human Services.) Another law that is helping the vaping epidemic is the New Hampshire State Law RSA 126-K:7, which “prohibits the use of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, or liquid nicotine on public educational facility grounds for grades K-12.” The law not only affects the students but affects the staff of schools by not allow them to have any tobacco or nicotine products on the school grounds.
My opinion on the “vaping epidemic” is that as a country, we have done all we can do to try and prevent this problem and now all we have left to do is raise awareness about the effects vaping and Juuling. I would love to say that the government can do more to prevent this problem but in reality, what else can they do? Banning e-cigarettes will just cause people to start smoking cigarettes which are worse for you because of the combustion and loads of chemicals in processed tobacco. Taking away all nicotine and tobacco products is impossible because it puts those companies out of business and will have an effect on the people who are addicted to nicotine.
In our school, vaping in the bathrooms has been a huge issue for the past year. Many students have been suspended for their foolish decisions to vape in our bathrooms. Our administration took action to stop this by boarding up the basement bathrooms and installing cameras in the hallways to monitor bathroom activity. I think that their changes have helped cut back the work of Ms. Parkinson and Mr. Herbert who spend a huge chunk of their day trying to stop our students; but with all the changes, the problem still hasn't stopped. Honestly speaking, it is very annoying to deal with this problem after a year has gone by. I have grown accustomed to seeing kids do this every day for the past year. It is now the job of the students to take a stand and stop their actions. I personally don't care what people do outside of school, it is their life choices, not mine. They shouldn't have to disrupt their peers who may value education more than taking a Juul break with their friends. This topic really stood out to me because in the end, it really isn't the job of our school and even our state, it is the job of the students who put their lives at risk because of the poor choice to try these drugs in and outside of school.
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