The marketing tactics for e-cigarettes are criticized for targeting teens. They often use celebrity spokespersons and advertise in places where kids are most likely to hang out, such as in malls and candy shops, and offer sweet flavors that young people find appealing. While the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are under investigation, nicotine still has effects on the developing bodies of teenagers.
The Short-Term Effects
Even though e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco or the harsh chemicals in cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, which still carry with it short-term effects.
The effects of nicotine are immediate upon the body. According to Drugfree.org, nicotine produces a rise in heart rates and pulse, a constriction in the arteries, and blood is shunted away from the heart.
Addiction to Nicotine
According to the New York Times, teenagers are especially vulnerable to nicotine. Furthermore, teenagers can become addicted to nicotine from just one try. At least a third of teenagers were found to have withdrawal symptoms thirty days after trying their one and only dose.
Lifelong Smoking Habit
The University of California, San Francisco, relayed that because of a doubling in the rates of e-cigarette consumption among teenagers and preteens, e-cigarettes can introduce youth to a lifetime of smoking. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) depicted that most addicted adult smokers (90 percent) started smoking before the age of 18.
Since the main addictive ingredient in cigarettes are used in e-cigarettes, teens can easily acquire the same lifelong addiction, but in the form of "vaping" instead of smoking. However, as the Los Angeles Times observed, more studies are needed to determine whether or not e-cigarettes are truly a gateway to tobacco smoking or not.
The Long-Term Effects
The long-term effects that result directly from the use of e-cigarettes are still not known. The product is still too new for any long-term studies to be conducted.
Teen Brain Development
Addiction to nicotine is possible with e-cigarettes, creating a possible life-long struggle for teens. According to Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, nicotine creates long-term effects on the developing brains of adolescents.
- Teens do not have the brain development or emotional maturity to realize that their nicotine use impacts their health or to acknowledge the effects of nicotine dependence, and often overestimate their ability to quit whenever they choose.
- Because teenagers' brains are still developing, their brains are particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine, which can in turn impair them for life. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex area of the brain is affected. Teen's developing brains are particularly sensitive and experience more of a rush from nicotine than older adults and become dependent upon it more quickly.
- With long-term use, nicotine can damage the areas of memory, cognition, and emotions that can last indefinitely through their adult lives.
This means that teens who are regular users of nicotine are at higher risk for cognitive reasoning impairment, attention deficits, and developing mental disorders such as depression, phobias, addictions, and antisocial personality.
KidsHealth adds that nicotine can create long-term damage to the heart, blood clots, and ulcers.
More Research Is Needed
While the delivery system of the nicotine is not well researched when it comes to e-cigarettes, including the substances they include in the vapor, it's clear that nicotine in itself is cause enough for concern.
It is important not only to let teenagers know that nicotine is very harmful for them, but also to continue researching the substances in e-cigarettes that could pose harm.