An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a handheld electronic device that vaporizes a flavored liquid, which the user inhales. The process of inhaling is known as vaping. The fluid in the e-cigarette is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavorings.
The Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik is credited for inventing the modern e-cigarette in 2003. Since the device was introduced on Western markets, its use has risen significantly. In the United Kingdom for example, users of the device have increased from 700,000 in 2012 to about 2.6 million in 2015.
The United States, too, has significant number of users. However, a new study in the country has revealed that the number of the country’s teenagers using the device is increasing exponentially. The study said the vaporizing trend in the country has promoted nicotine use to levels not seen since the 1990s.
The researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) based their findings on the assessment of 5,490 high school seniors, who graduated in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2014. The study has been accepted in the journal of American Academy of Pediatrics.
The study said the number of teenagers who reportedly smoked cigarettes or e-cigarettes went up from about 9% in 2004, to almost 14% in 2014. According to the study, the pattern recurred in various groups of adolescents who took part in the study, including males and females, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. While the overall number of people smoking cigarettes has fallen, the combined figure of people smoking cigarettes and vaping e-cigarettes has soared.
Lead author of the study, Dr Jessica Barrington-Trimis, a research associate at USC told the Daily Mail in an interview that vaping was eroding the progress made over the last several decades in tobacco control.
“E-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes for adults who are transitioning from smoking to vaping but for youths who have never used any other tobacco products, nicotine experimentation could become nicotine addiction,” she said.
One of the authors of the study, Dr Rob McConnell, a professor of preventive medicine at USC said he believed exposure to nicotine can damage the brains of teenagers. RT English News quoted him as saying: “However, use of e-cigarettes by youths who would not otherwise have smoked results in exposure to hazards of inhaled vaporized liquids and flavorings in e-cigarettes and may result in exposure to nicotine that can damage the adolescent brain.”
One of the strong arguments made in favor of vaping, by the device manufacturers, is that the new way of smoking could help fight tobacco addiction by making people switch to e-cigarettes. However, researchers wrote in the journal of American Academy of Pediatrics that teenagers using e-cigarettes would not necessarily have taken up to smoking if regular tobacco cigarettes were the only choice. They also added that people who in other circumstances would never touch a cigarette, are now experimenting with vaping.
“E-cigarettes are not merely substituting for cigarettes… e-cigarette use is occurring in adolescents who would not otherwise have used tobacco products,” the study said.
The health effect of vaping is currently being debated by researchers. Researchers are still conducting studies to fully explore the health effect of the device. In July 2014, the World Health Organization issued a warning about potential risks of using e-cigarettes.
An opinion poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos in April and May, also showed that 47% of Americans believe vaping is as dangerous as ordinary smoking.
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