National surveys have concluded that the majority of U.S. middle and high schoolers believe e-cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes. They also believe them to be not as addictive.
The surveys’ lead author Dr. Stephen M. Amrock of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland says that the safety of e-cigarettes “continues to be debated by public health experts.” He continues, “U.S. youth may not be wrong that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, but such a view captures only half the story. Less harmful does not equate with no harm.”
National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in 2012 and 2014 of kids in grades 6 to 12 asked questions about all sorts of tobacco products, soliciting opinions and beliefs about levels of harm and addictive qualities. In 2014, nearly three quarters said vaping is less harmful than smoking. Nearly half said vaping is less addictive than smoking.
“Even over the past few years, our research captures a shift in children’s thinking about e-cigarettes. This comes at a time that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth,” said Amrock. “Children who believe e-cigarettes are safer are more likely to use e-cigarettes.”
Amrock also acknowledged the recent FDA regulations of e-cigarettes as tobacco. “Yet concern exists that these products are making smoking seem ‘cool’ again – that they are being re-normalized. Children and parents need to understand that these products contain nicotine and are potentially harmful, both now and down the line.”
The majority of e-cigarettes contain varying amounts of harmful carcinogenic chemicals such as formaldehyde, as well as diacetyl. A recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General warns that vaping introduces volatile organic compounds (VOC) and heavy metals into the body as well, such as nickel, tin, and lead.
The flavoring agent diacetyl is a chemical linked to serious lung disease such as bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung.” The disease is only treatable by lung transplant.