Tobacco use survives in an ever-changing landscape and has continued to expand in recent years, especially with the explosion of electronic cigarettes on the market (also called e-cigarettes, vapes and JUUL). There are now 7,700 flavors of “e-juice,” and 460 brands of e-cigarettes. Many of these flavors are fruity, sweet and mimic dessert-like treats, masking the fact that these products can be loaded with nicotine and other harmful chemicals. No wonder there are renewed efforts to encourage youth to not take up such a dangerous and filthy habit. Unfortunately, those efforts are are competing against the giant that is the tobacco industry.
Tobacco Company Marketing
Youth can be especially susceptible to advertising and branding. In 2016, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $9.5 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the U.S. Marlboro, Newport and Camel, the three most heavily marketed brands of cigarettes, were cited as most preferred by middle school and high school students in 2016, with Marlboro being the leader.
Vaping, The Next Big Issue
E-cigarette use by youth is a growing concern. Data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey says current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased from 2017 to 2018, with more than 3.6 million students currently using e-cigarettes. From 2017 to 2018, use of e-cigarettes by high school students increased 78%, from 11.7 to 20.8 percent.
Health Impact on Young Bodies
Tobacco and e-cigarettes are harmful to young bodies, as they contain nicotine and other highly addictive ingredients that negatively affect brain development. Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes, while using nicotine in adolescence may also increase the risk of addiction to other drugs in the future.
Building an understanding of tobacco and e-cigarette company tactics, specifically how youth are targeted and the potential health risks to young developing bodies, can help educate youth around these issues. Being informed is the best way to assist youth in making better choices for their health and their future.
In short, the message must be clear. The only way to protect oneself against the harms of these products is to not use them at all, in any form.