Cigarettes have been a fixture of American society for decades and continue to be glorified, despite our increased knowledge of the physical effects of smoking. More recently, electronic cigarettes have been introduced, replacing the traditional paper-rolled tobacco stick. Although some people believe that e-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), are reasonable and cost efficient replacements for smoking, I do not agree.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered vaporizers that stimulate the sensation of smoking, but without tobacco consumption. Regardless of e-cigarettes not containing tobacco and therefore, eliminating tobacco-related health concerns, minimal testing has been done by the FDA to ensure our full knowledge of any alternative health risks. As e-cigarette use continues to rise in our country, particularly in youths and adolescents, we must expand our understanding of the impact that they may have on our bodies and exercise caution by not falling victim to the various marketing strategies that romanticize a highly addictive habit.

The money that is saved by switching from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes appeals to many people who want to cut back or quit smoking all together. A person who smokes half a pack per day can spend anywhere from $155 to $230 per month. Alternatively, prices for a blu eCigs rechargeable kit that includes a five-pack of flavor cartridges can range from $70 to $90. Despite being more cost efficient, people should not be distracted by this perk. Anyone who is trying to curb their addiction must understand that switching to e-cigarettes is not a guaranteed way to successfully quit.

My greatest point of contention with the companies that sell e-cigarettes is that they seemingly have no qualms about marketing their products to young and impressionable demographics. There are over 7,000 flavors available, among them cotton candy and bubble gum. One online company, VaporNation, advertised their product, KandyPens, in the June 4 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. I consider the most troubling feature of the ad to be that it is linked with candy, something that is traditionally symbolic of childhood innocence. By linking the candy to e-cigarettes, the ad promotes the notion that anyone is capable of vaping — the process of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by ENDS. Additionally, the ad featured a to-do list next to the product that includes studying, grocery shopping, band practice and “vape time.” Why are we allowing smoking to be treated as though it is as commonplace as going to school? Nothing that has the potential to endanger the lives of children should be treated so carelessly.

Normalizing e-cigarettes will be harmful because I am certain that doing so will perpetuate the thought that smoking is an acceptable hobby. There is already the school of thought that e-cigarettes may lead children to feel more comfortable with the idea of smoking tobacco later in life. According to an August 2015 study conducted by The Journal of the American Medical Association, “Teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products than teens who don’t use e-cigarettes.” Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported in the past that “Most adult ENDS users also smoke conventional cigarettes, which is referred to as ‘dual use.’” The CDC makes it perfectly clear that although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine and any level of nicotine exposure in children, as well as pregnant women and adolescents, can be toxic and lead to complications with the formation of adolescent brain circuits.

These health hazards should be enough to make everyone think twice before purchasing any ENDS, but the reality is that the marketing behind the products is thought out and expertly executed on all levels. NJOY, a company that sells e-cigarettes, has recently created a product called the Daily that replicates the addictive quality of conventional cigarettes by delivering quicker and stronger nicotine levels. When looking on their website, the selling feature of the product is that it is “so close to a cigarette it’s easy to forget.” Their marketing should not be so cavalier. They are treating cigarettes as though they are something desirable based on the fact that we know we should not want them, but we do anyway. That type of mentality is especially harmful to younger audiences who may think that products like the Daily, and those in likeness, will replicate cigarettes but without the stigma or danger.

If we do not show caution against e-cigarettes, we will be putting ourselves, and future generations in a dangerous position. The CDC reports, “Findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that current e-cigarette use (use on at least 1 day in the past 30 days) among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students.” These statistics are incredibly alarming and I believe are a direct reflection of carefully targeted marketing. It is much easier to market to children than it is to target adults. The lack of awareness that many children have in regards to their own health and safety puts them in a vulnerable position to these big market companies.

While there are proposals calling to ban sales to anyone under the age of 18, there is no proposal to regulate the marketing to teenagers or the use of flavorings like “cotton candy” to further entice them. This gross oversight will only serve to continue to create generations of addicts, courtesy of the tobacco industry.

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