This weekend a number of alarmist articles were released, pointing out a dramatic increase in teen vaping observed on school campuses across Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reported that since e-cigarettes tend to resemble flash drives or highlighter markers, they are easier to sneak into schools by students.
However, public health experts would argue that this rise in vaping could actually be a positive thing if it equates to a decrease in smoking. Despite agreeing that young adults should not initiate vaping, unless for smoking cessation purposes, realistically it is well known that most smokers have their first cigarettes in their early teen years. Looking at the situation within this context, experimenting with the proven safer alternatives rather than with deadly cigarettes is considered positive, and studies keep indicating that this is the case.
A rise in vaping equates to a drop in smoking
On another positive note, this same study indicated that the percentage of high school students using e-cigarettes seemed to be dropping aswell. For the first time since the advent of electronic cigarettes, vaping rates had decreased from 16.0% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2016, while smoking in that same period also dropped from 9.3% to 8.0%.
E-cigs are less addictive than regular cigarettes
Amongst other things, school administrators in Chicago are concerned that vaping is dangerous for adolescents, as nicotine could have long terms negative effects on their developing brains and will lead to lifelong addictions. “There’s a glory to this,” said Bill Walsh, principal at Hinsdale Central High School. “I don’t think students understand what the long-term effect is.”
Teens tend to vape nicotine-free e-liquids
However, studies have found that the majority of teen vapers use nicotine-free e-liquids. A 2016 study conducted by Fiona Measham, Professor of Criminology at the School of Applied Social Sciences of Durham University found that “young people do not consider vaping as a nicotine-inhaling method”, therefore their motivations for using e-cigarettes are different from those of adults.
The study concluded that only 28% of the observed adolescents used e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid, while adolescents who use the products just for the sake of it, tend to vape in a social context and avoid nicotine by using non-nicotine containing liquids.