E-cigarettes: Kids are the red herring in this debate

Up to about a year ago the usual news report on electronic cigarettes was unabashedly positive. Here was this great new product that smokers were finding to be a pleasurable substitute for cigarettes. The stories would feature smokers and their reports of improved breathing and in just about every case they would also mention how they had tried to quit before and failed. But here it was, the answer to everyone’s dreams.

You’d think that after all that lip flapping about how bad smoking is, how everyone really should quit, about that 2nd hand smoke, and even all that nonsense about cigarette butts clogging the streets, that e-cigarettes would have been welcomed with open arms. You’d think that health authorities would be falling over each other to tell any smokers who had not heard about this yet. But though many smokers have heard the good news every anti-smoking agency and activist seems determined to get this product banned. (And yes, we will concede the fact that its absolute safety is not determined yet but whether it is much safer than cigarettes, and whether the vapor is much less harmful than 2nd hand smoke is without a doubt).

Now, the average article might still contain one or two smokers talking about their quitting but the state sponsored fearmongers have taken central stage and making sure that everyone thinks more about these products being not 100% safe and less about them being safer than smoking. Kind of like saying “well, we have not looked really closely at that Coast Guard vessel yet so better stay on your sinking ship”. But just as criminal as that is, and because it seems to be the standard response from reason-challenged folks when up against the better mousetrap, its time to trot out the kids.

In this overall fairly balanced article from ABC News, Electronic Cigarettes: A Safer ‘Smoke’ or Another Bad Habit? E-Cigarettes Help Some Quit, but May Be Too Appealing to Teens, we have a couple of real gems.

The ease of concealing an e-cigarette habit (no smoke, no smell) may also make the product more appealing to teens, some argue, and certain brands of e-cigarettes have also been accused of marketing to kids by offering candy-like flavors such as chocolate, cherry, mocha, or almond.

Sure, they would be appealing to teens who are already smoking who would care about concealment but otherwise? And don’t get me started on the flavor issue…I am one of those insane grownups who likes chocolate and mocha, and I like those on just about everything you can add them to. I haven’t tried vaping chocolate but it sounds pretty cool. And it might just beat the hell out of plain old cigarettes, which can only be good.

Though he doesn’t know any teens who have latched onto the habit, Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York, says that “there is definitely reason for concern here.”

Because teens can get them online by pretending to satisfy the age restrictions many brands place on their websites, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a problem,” he says.

Yes, we really have to be concerned about those teens who might go online and lie about their age, have access to a lot more money than you need to buy cigarettes, go through a lot more hassle than getting a smoke from a friend or stealing it from their parents, actually smoke for some reason other than being a little edgy (because when you are a teenager I’m pretty sure smoking cigarettes is a bit more rebellious than those prissy safe ecigs). But, really, considering the idea that smoking might in fact be more harmful for developing bodies than for us older types, wouldn’t you rather they be vaping instead?

Even if e-cigarettes lack the toxicity of tobacco cigarettes, the nicotine in them is still a stimulant substance that you would want to keep out of the hands of minors, just as you would caffeine or alcohol, says Dr. Edwin Salsitz of the Division of Chemical Dependency at Beth Israel Medical Center.

And then, this. Caffeine is a pretty good example of something that is like nicotine and something that is preferred by adults but also that some kids gravitate towards (I know I did). Would you really be all that worried about your kids drinking coffee?

But the big point is this.

We were on the verge of the biggest public health revolution of all time. You would be hard pressed something bigger than vaping replacing smoking. But it seems this is is all worth throwing away at the thought of some kids using something analogous to coffee. In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown: Good Grief!

-Paul L. Bergen

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10 thoughts on “E-cigarettes: Kids are the red herring in this debate

  1. Yeah! If we have to vape these prissy-ass e-cigs, the least they can do is let us have some mocha. What do they want us to vape? Spinach?

    Interesting thing I’ve discovered in my 17 months of vaping–the longer I vape, the more unappealing cigarettes become. For the first many months, I’d have an occasional cigarette (never more than a couple a month). The last time I tried to smoke, months ago, I couldn’t get through two drags. I had to put it out.

    Anecdotal, of course, as so much of this is, but I’m in touch with a lot of vapers, and I know I’m not alone in this experience. Having smoked for more than 30 years, I never imagined a time when I’d quit smoking and feel anything less than deprived every day for the rest of my life. Instead, I’ve completely lost my desire to smoke, even though I’m around it every day and have ready access.

    In other words, vaping isn’t something I do to stave off cravings for the “real thing.” I prefer vaping–by a lot. I’m not alone in this, either, and as formidable as our enemies are, I think they greatly underestimate our passion and resolve. As smokers, we were demoralized, denormalized, stigmatized, taxed, shamed, lectured, and repeatedly told we smelled bad.

    Well, we don’t smell anymore, and we’ve regained our stamina (physically and mentally). They won’t win this.

  2. “Dragging out the children” is a purely knee-jerk automatic reaction from the antismoking nutjobs unfortunately. And you can see how nuts they get when you find a quote like that one from Dr. Salsitz: “the nicotine in them is still a stimulant substance that you would want to keep out of the hands of minors, just as you would caffeine or alcohol,”

    Equating those three substances is an amazing feat, particularly given that alcohol is a depressant rather than a stimulant. It’s also a depressant that’s easily and commonly consumed by teens in quantities that are quite immediately dangerous to life and limb – even if they’re NOT driving. So let’s not even discuss the piece of craziness further.

    On to the equating of caffeine and nicotine: caffeine is present, sometimes in very great amounts in the soft drinks peddled to and consumed by teens and ::gasp:: even PRE-teens! Parents have even been known to allow ten year olds to drink a Coke at the local McWhopperie! And it doesn’t stop there: what about chocolate? Lots of caffeine in those Hershey bars I believe.

    So does Dr. Salsitz believe parents naturally try to keep chocolate out of the innocent hands of their 20 year old little angels? What planet do these people come from???

    Good Grief nails it on the head Paul!

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  3. Thanks both for the comments. And nice point Michael re the equating of such different substances (worth a blog in iitself)..

    What I did not include in the post but was certainly worth mentioning is that the commenting readers seem to have a better handle on what is going on here than the writers. E-cig activists are not taking this crap lying down and hopefully that attitude (and common sense) will spread to other areas of this anti-tobacco nonsense.

  4. I’ll bet you all my spare batteries that if Dr. Salsitz a child for a patient who complained of problems in school, and various tests verified that child has Attention Deficit Disorder, Dr. Salsitz would have no problem whipping out his prescription pad to write a script for Ritilin or some other form of methamphetamine. If you compare the side effect profile of Ritilin to a nicotine product or to No-Doz, you will see that the Ritilin (or similar drug) has the potential for a lot more serious health risks than nicotine or caffeine.

  5. E-cigs are the answer to a smokers prayer.Since I started I don’t even consider myself a smoker anymore, I tries to smoke one regular cigarette since and it was totally nasty.I enjoy vapor and tobacco is not an option. So any overeducated dimwits want to ban vapor, my janty ego awaits your behind!y,all feel me.

  6. Pingback: One ban deserves another…. « Tobacco Harm Reduction: News & Opinions

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