The Allure of eCigarettes

[Editor’s Note: Names have been changed to protect those involved.]

It’s the year of novelty on the Hilltop—a new administration, a new science wing, a new dress code, a new constitution, and a new fad: e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes, short for “electronic-cigarettes,” heat a liquid solution, containing nicotine and other additives, into a vapor, which the smoker inhales, and exhales—just as done with a conventional cigarette.

A recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of middle school and high school students who have tried e-cigarettes in the past year has nearly doubled, and to many, it seems as if this statistic proves especially true with students on the Hilltop.

“I guess I smoke e-cigs because they’re not as bad as regular cigarettes,” said Jones, an SLS senior and a self-proclaimed avid e-cig smoker, “They’re pretty fun too. It’s basically all the fun of smoking real smoke, but without the danger.”

But Jones’ claim that e-cigs come “without the danger” is surrounded by a firestorm of debate from legislatures, doctors and parents alike. Because e-cigarettes go largely unregulated, the FDA does not know any long term effects of the product. E-cig manufacturers, however, argue that their product is a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes and can be a more effective and easier way to quit smoking than nicotine patches or nicotine gum.

Although state law forbids anyone under the age of 18 to buy—or smoke—an e-cigarette, it seems as if manufacturers subtly target high school students when marketing electronic cigarettes. In one advertisement, Blu eCig company posted a picture of actress Jenny McCarthy smoking its product, and captioned a quote from her: “It’s freedom to have a cigarette without the guilt.”

Another advertisement introduced a “starter pack” of e-cigarettes, highlighting the many nicotine flavors such as “cherry crush,” “vivid vanilla” and “magnificent menthol.”

Many wonder: Is a potentially dangerous product being masked by images of successful celebrities and fruitful flavoring labels?

According to Jones, this could possibly be the case. “I don’t buy e-cigs because of the names of the flavors,” he told The Sentinel, “but I guess I could see how kids my age could be fooled by a picture of a celebrity or a sweet-sounding flavor name.”

Despite the rise in e-cig smokers, several students on the Hilltop vehemently condemn such practices. Jane, a senior at St. Luke’s, claimed that watching people smoke e-cigs is simply “disgusting and annoying.”

“I was at a party last weekend,” Jane said, “and four boys at the party pulled out their e-cigs and started smoking them freely in the basement of the house we were in. I know it’s not real smoke, but I just still find it extremely unattractive. I understand its use for people who are trying to quit smoking, but I see no reason for high school students to get hooked.”

The idea of “getting hooked” to e-cigarettes as Jane mentioned is a grave concern of many students who are aware of the growing e-cig fad. “I would hate to see my friends get addicted,” said Matt, a Junior at St. Luke’s, “and I think most of them forget that what they are smoking is nicotine, which is the sole chemical that gets people hooked on regular cigarettes, and is highly addictive.

But for Jones, this is not a concern. “I’ve been smoking e-cigs for a few months now, and I never feel like I crave them. I have friends at this school who have been smoking them even longer, and I wouldn’t say that they’re really ‘addicted’ either.”

A recent New York Times editorial disagreed with students like Matt and Jane, who find smoking e-cigarettes particularly repulsive, claiming that smoking e-cigarettes is essentially “smoking regular cigarettes without the stigma.”

But perhaps the stigma is even worse—as many students on the Hilltop view e-cig smokers as people who are simply “trying to be cool” but are really just “embarrassing themselves” in the effort to do so.

“If you’re not comfortable enough to smoke a conventional cigarette, I don’t think you should feel any more comfortable trying an electronic one,” Jane said. “Just because the health risks haven’t been studied doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Students at St. Luke’s, especially upperclassmen, need to stop now—the last thing we want is to set a bad example for those who look at us as leaders.”

— Drew Lord, Social Media Director

Posted by on October 8, 2013. Filed under FSPA,School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry