Teenagers are finding a new way to get their hands on a product which is illegal for them to use — tobacco.
Many are now turning to a e-cigarettes rather than the more traditional physical product most adults grew up around.
In the U.S., out of the 24 percent of middle and high school who smoked tobacco in the last 30 days, 18 percent used a flavored tobacco product. Electronic cigarettes, also called vaporizers or e-cigarettes, accounted for nearly half of the 18 percent, according to a study released at the end of September by the Center for Disease Control. The data was cited from a 2014 study by the National Youth Tobacco Survey.
“They think the electronic cigarette is better for you,” said Ivan Walter, a senior at Pittsburg High School. He added it “is more socially accepted.”
Walter said a majority of people he knows who smoke have shifted to the electronic cigarette.
Incident reports from Pittsburg High School shows the number of students being caught with e-cigarettes did flip-flop with traditional cigarettes at one point.
In the 2013 fiscal year, five students were caught with cigarettes, but none were found with e-cigarettes. The next school year, two students were caught with cigarettes and five with e-cigarettes. Although, the number of students caught with traditional cigarettes did overtake e-cigarettes in the 2015 fiscal year. However, it is remains illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase or possess any tobacco products.
Robert Lee, owner of Go Vapor in Pittsburg, said the shop is diligent on checking IDs to make sure customers are at least 18. But, he does feel the electronic cigarettes or vaporizers are a much safer product.
“If it comes down to a kid vaping or smoking, I would much rather see them vaping then smoking,” Lee said. “But, I am not going to sell it to them.”
Lee said the tar, chemicals and carcinogens in cigarettes make it much worse.
Some evidence points to the e-cigarettes being a better alternative, but it still presents dangers. Others, say there is not enough evidence, yet. Moreover, nicotine remains addictive — and a potent neurotoxin — no matter what form it is ingested in.
“Research into the effects of e-cigarettes lags behind their popularity,” an article on webmd.com said. “It’s a ... billion-dollar industry, on track to outsell tobacco products within a decade. The number of teens and tweens using these products doubled between 2011 and 2012.”