Is Teenage Vaping an "Epidemic"?
This past week, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb called e-cigarette use among American teenagers "an epidemic". Since then, many have agreed and disagreed with Dr. Gottlieb's announcement. In his statement, he declared that mnufacturers of e-cigarettes have 60 days to come up with a plan to discourage teen use of their products. He also threatened to ban all flavored products.
E-cigarette companies, the most well-known of which is Juul, claim that their products are for adults only, but recieve a large portion of sales from teenagers. In particular, vaping ads have taken over social media and often feature fruity and candy-like flavors that would be more likely to attract teens. Juuls are particularly popular among teens because they are physically easy to hide (they resemble a flash drive), release only a small puff of smoke, and don't smell like tobacco. All of this allows them to be more easily hid from parents, teachers, etc.. Although not all e-cigarette "fillers" contain nicotine, most do, and those that don't still contain harmful chemicals that have been subject to few tests.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said that the FDA should do more. Many pediatricians have cited children as young as 12 becoming addicted to nicotine through the use of e-cigarettes. According to an AAP statement reprinted in NBC news, "The AAP rejects FDA’s decision to allow five leading e-cigarette manufacturers to submit plans in 60 days for how they will address youth use of their products. FDA has the ability today to do what tobacco companies can’t and won’t do: take effective steps to reduce and eliminate youth use of e-cigarettes." Although the AAP and others claim that the FDA is not doing enough, some have taken the other side, and claim that we should be focusing on the opioid epidemic or something more "serious" than teens vaping.
Personally, I think that it is a major issue, particularly the fact that people really think it is not harmful. At this point, most people that choose to smoke cigarettes know that it's bad for them, but somehow the same thing does not extend to e-cigarettes. I also have serious doubts that the companies themself will help in curbing teen usage, as the FDA wants them to do, since they profit from a large number of teens using their products. I also think it's dangerous to claim that it's not a serious issue just because it's not as dangerous as opioids--although opioid addiction is obviously worse than nicotine addiction, nicotine addiction is more widespread, particularly among teenagers, and should not be ignored just because we also have an opioid crisis. Thoughts on this?