Kids and E-Cigarettes

December 6th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

More kids are smoking electronic cigarettes, and youth smoking rates haven’t declined. How concerned should we be?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Getting used to seeing people “smoke” indoors has been an adjustment. I recently shared a small elevator with someone who was happily puffing away on an electronic cigarette, and while I was a little grossed out at being enveloped in the visible manifestation of his breath, the vapor didn’t smell like much. But other than seeing the humid cloud around my elevator-mate, no harm done, right? After all, those touting the use of e-cigarettes have been saying that the cigarettes, which use a battery to gently heat nicotine, are not only healthier than regular cigarettes, but can also help people kick the habit.

However, recent research is casting doubt on the idea that e-cigarettes are safer. French researchers have found that three out of 10 e-cigs studied had a level of formaldehyde close to that in conventional cigarettes, and highly toxic acrolein was sometimes higher than in traditional cigarettes.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that while overall tobacco use among middle and high school students last year was about one percentage point lower than in 2011, there was a notable increase in kids who use hookahs and e-cigarettes, as well as candy-flavored mini-cigars, or “cigarillos.”

Unlike cigarettes, e-cigs aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which USA Today reports plans to expand its authority to include them.

Regardless of what the FDA finds about the safety of e-cigarettes, isn’t it just a little alarming that, as the Washington Post reports, e-cigs are “beginning to show up in the hallways of the nation’s middle schools and high schools”? In just one year from 2011 to 2012, the Post reports, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students nearly doubled – raising the worry that e-cigarettes could lead to nicotine addiction or be a gateway to tobacco products. Should we lay off kids who are puffing vapor until the FDA can regulate, or should schools start banning the e-cigs now? Weigh in.