Recent data from an extensive annual survey on teen smoking, drinking and drugs indicates that the use of electronic cigarettes [e-cigs] among U.S. high school students more than doubled (78 percent) from 2017 to 2018 — an increase of skyrocketing proportion that has school administrators, substance abuse counselors, medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] and of course parents, more than a little concerned. And youth in middle school aren’t far behind (48 percent) in their growing desire to be part of the “vaping” community.

Officials from many school districts across the nation, including in the nearby states of Maryland and Virginia, describe the trend as an “epidemic” and have ramped up efforts to dissuade students from picking up the popular habit — one which has proven, in contrast to assertions made by manufacturers less than a decade ago — to be detrimental to users’ health.

Health officials still cannot definitively say how vaping contributes to lung-related illnesses among habitual users but a growing number of youth who vape have suffered seizures or convulsions which some experts believe are connected to the wide range of ingredients or contaminants found in e-cigs and inhaled by smokers. Just last week in Illinois, the first death from a vaping-related lung illness was confirmed in an adult.

Those from the Baby Boomer generation, or older, probably remember the famous advertisement campaign that featured the rugged, handsome, masculine Marlboro Man who seemed invincible — doing all kinds of manly tasks with a Marlboro cigarette prominently hanging from his lips. The ads gave cigarette smoking a more glamorous appeal in ways that have disturbingly been replicated by today’s manufacturers of e-cigs like industry-leading JUUL. Tragically, the men who were chosen as Marlboro models, all habitual cigarette smokers, later died from emphysema or other lung diseases.

Instead of the Marlboro Man, today we see images of high school football players leaving the field and quickly reaching into their pockets for a few puffs from their multi-flavored e-cigarettes. And advertising targets youth, coerced into believing that vaping is somehow safer than cigarette smoking — even though both habits are based on the ingestion of nicotine — a drug that that’s been proven to be highly addictive and destructive.

E-cigs were reportedly developed to help adult smokers quit the habit but very few actually turn to vaping for that purpose. Meanwhile, a new generation of nonsmokers, youth specifically, are vaping — many of whom, experts predict, will or have already picked up cigarette smoking to supplement their need for nicotine. Recent statistics reveal that nationwide, 3 million youth, and growing, have become entangled in the new-age form of smoking — “collateral damage” in an industry that’s making millions of dollars for its owners.

Is vaping harmless? Far from it.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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