Protecting teens from nicotine

Clayton Hedges, Memorial Staff Writer

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As society continues to evolve on the backs of new inventions and technologies meant to help the modern world, so do industries that capitalize on human addiction and the current youth’s interests.

For years tobacco companies have prayed on teenagers as a way to insure there will continue to be people to smoke cigarettes, use chewing tobacco and purchase similar products.

While time continues to progress, light has been shed on the harmful effects of these tobacco-based products; yet as technology has evolved, so has this industry.

E-cigarettes are a relatively new alternative to smoking that has seen major investment and development from these companies. What was once envisioned as a safe alternative for those trying to rid their addiction of cigarettes has turned into a million dollar invention and these companies target is once again teenagers.

While vapes and e-cigarettes are meant to be a safer alternative to tobacco, these products still utilize the most harmful chemical found in cigarettes, nicotine. Nicotine is strongly linked to the development of many different types of cancer and diseases. The fact that these companies are targeting anyone besides adults with such dangerous products, should be completely illegal, the fact that it has gone moderately unnoticed should suggest something the current relationship between parents and children.

Social media has become increasingly integrated into western culture. The tobacco industry has seen this and used Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to advertise. All of the aforementioned social media platforms are incredibly popular among teenagers and companies like JUUL and SMOK take advantage of this.

Between 2015 and 2017 JUUL spent roughly $2 million on advertisements on popular social media platforms. In this same time period there were roughly 367,000 tweets specifically mentioning JUUL and making it one of the most tweeted about subjects in 2018. During this period of time, high schools have struggled to prevent students from vaping and “JUULing” on campus because of the image these advertisements have presented to teens.

Along with this, a study was posted on AAP News and Journal Gateway that concluded that over 24 million teens and children were exposed to vape and e-cigarette advertising in 2013. It was found to be the second most targeted audience with the only age group targeted more being young adults between ages 18-28. That was eight years ago, the popularity of these products has increased dramatically since then and the FDA has been slow to act.

Just last year in March, the FDA released a statement warning parents that there were over 40 violations from JUUL related to youth sales. This may have stopped JUUL, but it has led to the increase of sales in many other companies, the current teenagers are already addicted and it’s quite possible that parents will be unable to rid the current generation of this current addiction to the nicotine based e-cigarettes.  

The best route for the future is to warn children of the harmful effects nicotine has on the body and its strong link to cancer. Oklahoma’s “Tobacco Stops With Me” campaign has recently shifted their message to include a warning of the dangers of vaping as well as smoking. It’s time the rest of the nation and parents take notice of this new epidemic to prevent dependence on nicotine and tobacco based products in order to create a brighter future.

Contact Clayton Hedges at [email protected]