It seems like vaping stores are popping up by popular demand on every corner, and many of the users are high school students. During 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use skyrocketed among youth, leading the U.S. Surgeon General to call the use of these products among youth an epidemic in the United States.
Did you know that one-in-four of Georgia high school students reported that they have used e-cigarettes (26.1%; 120,000) according to a 2018 report published by the Georgia Department of Public Health? However, in Georgia it is against the law to purchase e-cigarette products for anyone under 18.
You may wonder, what is vaping? According to Georgia law, Vapor product means “any noncombustible product containing nicotine that employs a heating element, power source, electronic circuit, or other electronic, chemical, or mechanical means, regardless of shape or size, that can be used to produce vapor from nicotine in a solution or other form. The term ‘vapor product’ shall include any electronic cigare
tte, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, or similar product or device and any vapor cartridge or other container of nicotine
in a solution or other form that is intended to be used with or in an electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, or similar product or device.” Ga. Code Ann. § 16-12-170(10) (2019)
The Georgia Youth Tobacco Survey was administered in 2017 to 40 Georgia public high school (2,614 students). Twenty-six high schools were considered urban and fourteen rural. The results are alarming. The number of students who tried e-cigarettes, even once or twice, had increased by 66% from 15.7% (72,900) in 2013 to 26.1% (120,000) in 2017.
Naturally, the rise in e-cigarette use among teenagers has garnered attention, especially with news reports showing JUUL, a popular e-cigarette brand, under fire for the company’s marketing strategies targeting teenagers with fruit flavored products. The medical community, as well as parents and school officials, are waking up to this oncoming epidemic.
The report showed that as high school students age, the use of e-cigarettes increases. (see diagram 2) This trend is concerning due to the nature of what is in the e-cigarettes, namely nicotine, marijuana and other drugs such as THC.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has known health effects:
- Nicotine is highly addictive.
- Nicotine can harm youth brain development, which continues into the early to mid-twenties.
- Nicotine impacts learning, memory and attention.
- Nicotine increases the risk of future addiction to cigarettes and other drugs.
- Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and their developing babies.
Additionally, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful substances, including:
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Volatile organic compounds
- Ultrafine particles
- Flavorings that have been linked to lung disease
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.
To further demonstrate concern, e-cigarettes are now more popular with student tobacco users than other nicotine products, such as cigarettes, smokeless (chewing) tobacco, hookahs and waterpipes. The only product with higher usage is cigars or cigarillos. The report states that more males than females are using e-cigarettes, and usage is higher in urban areas vs. rural areas.
What motivated teens to begin using these products? Seventy-nine percent said it was because family or friends used them. In fact, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among American youth since 2014 according to the CDC.
One-fourth of teens surveyed reported they thought e-cigarettes were more socially acceptable than cigarettes. One-third of all teens surveyed they believed e-cigarettes were less harmful than other tobacco products, as well as less addictive. There is clearly a lack of information or a lot of misinformation among our Georgia teen population about e-cigarettes.
So where does this leave us? We are undoubtedly expecting increasing health issues as a result of e-cigarette usage as these teenagers grow older. Because tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States and because nearly all tobacco products contain nicotine, this epidemic cannot be ignored. Through law enforcement (prosecuting selling to teens), education, legal action (against manufacturers), government assistance from the FDA to establish stricter product standards (eliminating flavors) and other avenues, hopefully middle and high schoolers can be protected from what could be the greatest epidemic of their generation.
If you know of teenagers or anyone experiencing health issues as a result of using e-cigarettes, talk to our experienced attorneys at Friedman & Martin, specializing in personal injury law. We offer a free consultation visit or you can call 912-232-8500 or visit www.savinjurylaw.com today. We are waiting to help you.