We’ve heard the facts about smoking cigarettes. While they are still legal, and the stores have really gotten a lot stricter about selling to minors (I remember when we used to walk into a store and buy a pack for our parents at ten years old), we now have to worry about e-cigarettes, something that was said to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes.
The CDC reports, “Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youths.”
Honestly, if cigarettes had tasted like candy while I was growing up, I know for a fact more of my friends would have taken up smoking. Back in the ’80s and ’90s you stood outside lighting your cigarette, coughing away, trying to act like you enjoyed it until you became addicted and felt like you needed that next cig in order to relax.
However, things have changed since those simple times of smelling like dirty cigarettes. And I’ve had teenagers living in my house for over five years. Between the three of them, their friends, and all the shit they’ve brought into my house, I’ve had to educate myself on all the latest teen trends. That includes e-cigarettes.
You would think I would know an electronic smoking device when I saw one but, I’m still in the dark at times. They come in all shapes and forms and are really hard to smell. There were a few times when my kids told me it was something for their computer in the early days, and I believed them because why would you put something electronic in your mouth and smoke it?
Being a parent to a teenager is so exhausting.
You can vape anything now, including melatonin, so I’ve had to be very clear with my three kids: If you are thinking about bringing something into my house that is vape-able, I don’t care if it’s vitamins or something to help you sleep, my answer is no. There are plenty of other ways to relax or catch some ZZZs.
I literally can’t keep up with all the latest vaping devices, so if there’s something I find that even resembles a smoking pen, you better have some answers and be able to show me how it works.
Whether you are a parent of teens or not, you have probably heard of Juul, the e-cigarette brand who claims to be made for adult smokers. They became popular among teens for their fruit flavors very quickly.
At the beginning of 2020, the FDA started taking actions against places that distributed or sold e-cigarettes unless they were plain or menthol flavored.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the FDA, “By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth. We will not stand idly by as this crisis among America’s youth grows and evolves, and we will continue monitoring the situation and take further actions as necessary.”
On October 12th, the FDA did authorize British American Tobacco brand’s Vuse Solo, the first time the administration has authorized an e-cigarette for sale. But it’s because it tastes like tobacco — nothing fun and fruity — which likely will not be as appealing to the younger crowd.
This was an effort made by the FDA to stop the appeal of e-cigarettes like Juul to so many teenagers. Now, like Vuse, Juul only sells plain or menthol flavored e-cigarettes — and guess what? They are not the teens’ first choice for an e-cig any longer.
There’s a new loophole in town and it’s called a Puff Bar which is a disposable e-cigarette that comes in flavors that resemble fruit or candy.
The CDC reports that last year about 13.1% of U.S. middle and high school students “reported using e-cigarettes within the past 30 days (current use); more than 80% of current users reported flavored e-cigarette use.”
Out of that 13.1%, 85% of teens said they use the flavored products. 26% of those users prefer Puff Bar as their e-cigarette of choice.
According to TIME, these flavors Puff Bars are still available to our teens since they are disposable, and made up of a ‘“lab-made nicotine” that can’t be regulated by the FDA at this time.
In July, the FDA sent out letters to ten companies (including Puff Bar) asking them to remove their sweet-flavored disposable cigarettes as “they do not have the required premarket authorization.”
In September, e-cigarette companies were required to send out proposals to the FDA to show that the health benefits of adults smoking their e-cigarettes were more beneficial than the harm these devices were causing our teens. Though the FDA has approved Vuse Solo, it has denied some of the flavored products submitted by other companies.
Hopefully this will end the crisis involving our teens and e-cigarettes. The FDA says, “The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes” and we can only hope as parents their efforts to end it will be successful.
In the meantime, take it from a mom who has three teenagers: check their backpacks and their rooms every once in a while. These e-cigarettes are rampant, and it’s up to us to look out for our kids.