Teenagers confront a considerable amount of peer pressure as they navigate their way through adolescence. One of the more challenging situations teens confront is the pressure to smoke. Thankfully, anti-smoking campaigns have made great strides in preventing the number of young people who smoke tobacco products.
According to the American Lung Association, in 2015 9.3 percent of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days. That’s a remarkable 74 percent decline from 1997. That’s encouraging news, though there’s still a lot of work to do to help teens avoid smoking entirely.
Modern teens face challenges regarding tobacco that are entirely different from those faced by their parents decades ago. Back then, cigarettes were the primary, most readily available tobacco product. But teens now must also confront e-cigarettes and the mountain of misinformation about them. The ALA highlights the following facts about e-cigarettes to help teens make healthy choices.
• E-cigarettes are not safer than traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes, an umbrella term that includes vapes, hookah pens or JUULS, have not been proven to be a safe alternative to cigarettes. Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are inhaled and the products produce an aerosol cloud of nicotine or other substances.
• JUUL pods contain nicotine. The ALA notes that every JUUL pod contains nicotine, and some even claim to have as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, regularly smoking products that contain nicotine is considered a major preventable cause of premature death and disability.
• JUUL smoke may look different, but it’s very similar to regular cigarette smoke. The ALA notes that the aerosol cloud produced by JUUL smoke tends to look different from the smoke clouds produced by other e-cigarettes and even traditional cigarettes. However, JUUL smoke contains many of the same chemicals as traditional cigarettes. The American Cancer Society notes that some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, carbon monoxide, and ammonia.
• Even “nicotine-free” e-cigarettes likely contain nicotine. According to the ALA, there are no rules governing how e-cigarettes or e-juice are made, so there’s no way for consumers to know exactly what these products contain. But the ALA says virtually all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, even those that imply they don’t.
• The adolescent brain is sensitive to the effects of nicotine. A 2012 study published in Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine found that the adolescent brain is especially sensitive to the effects of nicotine. Studies of people who smoked during adolescence concluded that such people were at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment later in life.
Modern teens may not feel the same pressure to smoke traditional cigarettes as teens did in recent decades. But the pressure to try harmful e-cigarettes can be significant, and teens who learn about these dangerous products may be better equipped to resist them.