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Electronic Cigarette Epidemic Affects Teens

Harrison Le, Staff Writer

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Although electronic cigarettes were initially created to help people stop smoking, it has slowly evolved into the newest trend that teens can’t seem to get enough of.

Earlier this year, the FDA announced its investigation regarding the use of e-cigs and vaping; deeming the usage an “epidemic” among teenagers. Citing two million underage users and increases of nearly 12 percent usage among high school students. The findings by the FDA have caused a massive anti-vaping campaign targeted toward teens and the risks vaping brings, particularly addictive nicotine and other harmful substances linked to serious lung disease.

I have to give credit where credit it’s due. The ads in the campaign are well developed and directed. The United States government has clearly spent a hefty sum to produce these videos, but they try simply too hard to appeal to the teen demographic.

One particular video, “An Epidemic is Spreading,” has “teen” settings such as a high school locker room. Its computer-generated graphics are certainly up to par with Hollywood standards, yet something seems off. After viewing the video, despite the clearly grotesque CGI and implied ominous tone, unless you are scared of flashy images, nothing is really convincing anyone to put down a Juul (a type of e-cigarette that uses nicotine salts that exist in leaf-based tobacco for its key ingredient). There are few statistics and even less evidence backing up the overly dressed up video. It plays like a trailer to a horror movie rather than a warning; the age-old tactic of scaring kids away from harmful habits never works.

Much like the 90s anti-cigarette campaigns of the past, the fact of the matter is no one is listening. Especially teens.

The failure of these advertisements is not the only thing holding this campaign back from its goal. The distribution to teens is also a contributing factor. As a teen myself, these videos have never crossed my screen on any device. Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Spotify, or television: none of these videos from this so called “full on assault” by the FDA have ever popped up anywhere at any time. Amusingly, the only time I came across a video was when a link on an actual article detailing the FDA investigation popped up. The FDA needs to reevaluate its strategy because as it stands, the campaign as a whole is a failure.

Teenagers today are under the impression vaping is nowhere near as dangerous as cigarettes. Until the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes are studied, I doubt an effective solution to the problem of vaping exists. Teens will be teens and only the passage of time and the coming of the next “hip” fad will ultimately stop kids from vaping. The campaign against it was expected, so was its failure.

Teenagers are, by nature, going to do whatever they are told not to. It’s how we work. The internet’s response to the anti-vaping ads clearly does not reflect the educated, scholarly discussion the FDA was probably hoping for, but of teens mocking the campaign. It’s Photo-shopped images and edits all poke fun at the ad that is just trying too hard. No one is honestly talking about the true message the ad is trying to convey. Teens are doing what they do, delegating the ads to meme status and becoming the newest joke of the internet.

Harsh regulations were placed on big companies such as Juul in the wake of the investigation, claiming the company had not done enough to limit the purchase of Juuls by teens. The company has since pledged $30 million to keep its product out the hands of those under 18 in what is most certainly a PR stunt. Juul benefits from sales including those indirectly to underage consumers. I doubt the success of any campaign undertaken by electronic cigarettes companies, it’s a complete conflict of interest. Even the government seemingly can’t do anything.

As a high schooler, the impact of e-cigs, particularly Juuls, is clear but not the “epidemic” the FDA seems to make it out to be. Any trend that negatively affects health especially one that goes against the law is not okay and police should take action against it. The FDA’s stance is a noble one but it is in vain. The teenage demographic, much like the teens of decades past, continue to go against what any laws or fancy CGI videos say.

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Electronic Cigarette Epidemic Affects Teens