Although the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to grow, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department encourages consumers to proceed with caution. Much about the relatively new technology remains untested, unproven and unregulated — and use by youth under 18 is rising sharply.Use of e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” is touted as a way to avoid the negative health effects of smoking regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes and their paraphernalia are unregulated, meaning no standards exist for labeling or what they contain, which can include potentially toxic chemicals.
“The amount of misinformation about e-cigarettes is troubling, but we also are extremely concerned about the sharp rise in e-cigarette use among youth,” said Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH.
According to Washington’s 2014 Healthy Youth Survey, e-cigarette use is now at a rate similar to marijuana use among Pierce County 10th graders. One in five is using these substances — double the number who smoke cigarettes.
Those under 18 are prohibited from purchasing e-cigarette products. But enforcement of this regulation is not funded in Pierce County, and many stores are selling these products regardless of a buyer’s age. Nicotine is harmful to youth because it is addictive and impacts normal brain development. E-cigarette juices come in a variety of flavors such as chocolate and cotton candy that are meant to appeal to kids.
“These days, stores on every street corner are advertising and selling e-cigarettes and e-juice,” said Chen. “The stores and manufacturers want youth to think that these products are cool and safe. They are not.”
“Nicotine is addictive, and e-cigarettes are nicotine-delivery vehicles,” he added. “People who start using nicotine products when they are young are likely to become addicted for life, and tobacco companies are cultivating a sustainable market for their product,” said Chen.
For accurate, up-to-date information about e-cigarettes, see www.tpchd.org/ecigarettes.