E-Cigarettes are targeting youth, becoming an epidemic

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I remember the first time that I saw someone puffing on an E-Cigarette in middle school.
At the time, it was an odd idea, but hey, it didn’t bother me. Fast-forward nine years, and they are practically an epidemic.

One minute, someone is puffing out of the car, and then the next, a smoke alarm is going off at a party from smoke hanging in the air. Everywhere you turn, another person is using a form of an e-cig, and yet most people believe that there aren’t any significant long-term implications.

Although some people use e-cigs just to do cool tricks, those who smoke e-cigs containing nicotine are at risk for significant side effects.

Studies have shown that vaporized nicotine has caused heart, lung and brain problems.

Not only are the consequences of e-cigarettes harmful, but the habit itself can lead to cigarette addiction. Studies have shown that 30.7 percent of e-cig users started smoking within six months versus eight percent for non-users.

Not only are e-cigs wildly popular, but they also come in over 460 different types, such as hookah pens, vapes and mods. The easy availability, marketing strategies and wide variety of flavors have aided in the popularity.

Recently, the FDA warned manufacturers to address the appeal of flavors to those who are underage. According to the CDC, there are approximately 3.6 million middle- and high school-aged tobacco users, 2.1 million of whom use e-cigarettes.

Fortunately, the FDA and some local governments have been quick to address underage addiction.

Washington State has raised the age to buy e-cigs to 21, along with all tobacco products. Some cities, such as San Francisco, have gone as far as banning e-cigs altogether.

The FDA is beginning to crack down too. On Sept. 12, the FDA put out a notice to popular device manufacturers that they had just 60 days to prove that they can keep their devices out of the hands of minors. They also raised the possibility of civil or criminal charges if companies continue to sell in mass quantities on their websites.

E-cigs have not only been a detriment to underage youth, but to America as a whole.

Although it may not be necessary to ban e-cigs altogether, at a minimum, the flavors need to be eliminated to curb underage interest. To some, this may seem extreme when in fact it is not. The FDA has already banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes. Why not set the precedent for e-cigarettes as well?

Most recently, the FDA had a surprise inspection of Juul Labs last Friday, which holds 72 percent of the e-cigarette market share.

It is about time that the FDA is sending a message that it is unacceptable to continue marketing to minors, and it will not be tolerated. It is immoral for these devices to end up in the hands of youth who are not able to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.

Ultimately, something needs to be done to reduce the 800 percent increase in use from 2011 to 2014.

I would say that it is time for restrictions to be placed on e-cigarettes, but really, the right time was a long time ago. The epidemic must be confronted before it spirals further out of control.