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E-Cigs and vapes: the dubious ‘kings of cool’

Mass fear of new nicotine technologies may be unwarranted

The Center for Disease Control released data this month from the organization’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey with this year producing historic results. For the first time since the survey was administered, traditional cigarette use has been usurped from its toxic throne as the most preferred smoking medium among the youth.

The survey demographic of high school students, who admitted to smoking in the past month, have cast down the vintage eloquence of the cigarette to the startling bronze podium, reaching a measly 9.2 percent. The exotic attraction of the hookah, a coal bubbling water pipe, barely surpassed in popularity for second place at 9.4 percent while a 13.4 percent majority gave the gold to the sleek newcomers, electronic cigarettes (“e-cigs”) and vaporizers (“vapes”).

Just as the cell phone has revolutionized communication and the internet expanded information access, advancements in technology have ushered in a new dynasty for smoking. According to the CDC, the younger community has crowned the e-cig and the vape the kings of late-night social circles. Yet, does this survey reflect reality?

The health, legal and political campaigns to deter children from the regular use of tobacco products are strong and continuously building a more brutally sober strategy to convey their message. There are terrifying infomercials where a young girl rips off her skin to buy a pack of cigarettes and others of long-time smokers displaying the notorious holes in their necks.

The NYTS relies on the integrity of middle and high school students to honestly admit to doing something they know is wrong. No amount of anonymity is going to completely bring out the truth from students to pencil in holes that would potentially defame their character on a government document in this age that is devoid of the right to be forgotten.

Some believe that e-cigs and vapes give millennials a scapegoat. The varying health research and lack of an expected slandering crusade against their endorsement is a get-out-of-jail free card for a guilty conscience.

CDC Director Tom Frieden on Thursday, April 16, said “It’s the first uptick in children using tobacco products in a generation. This is a very alarming finding.”

If this is true, then this theory should reflect in the UMBC community. The smoke-free campus policy does not address e-cigs and vapes, though ResLife has banned them in residence halls. Consequently, this lackadaisical atmosphere of absent enforcement, deterrence and alarmist campaigns should breed widespread abuse toward the lure of a highly addictive and attractive new smoking products. However, this is not the case.

Only a small community of e-cig users and vapers are known to each other at UMBC and often attached by a prior or current smoking habit. Each coming year, the percentage of tobacco smokers has been protested with use numbers perpetually falling to record lows.

There is also little-to-no push for the use of e-cigs and vapes to be used beyond the current normative limits at UMBC. Julia Stewart, a sophomore computer science major, said “They are still an irritant for some people (even if it is just the smell), and it’s disrespectful to smoke them in enclosed places like the classroom.”

The fabricated legitimacy the analysts of the NYTS provide permits them to proclaim e-cigs and vapes as the tyrannical ‘kings of cool.’ These doom merchants have yet to meet the young, knowledgeable vape-liquid connoisseur, who also could cite multiple inconclusive and partially enlightening studies to the health risk of their habit, or the respectful e-cig user, who asks the people in the vicinity to whether anyone is uncomfortable with their using.
Only time will illuminate this false prophecy to any degree of validity, revealing whether e-cigs and vapes will withstand the cultural fashions ahead or if some new technological smoking fad will fight the current and break through to mainstream.